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Football Comes Together to Tackle Online Hate


Key football authorities and organisations, including Kick It Out, PFA, Premier League and The FA, have come together to continue their fight against online hate.  

Convened by Kick It Out, a range of football, media and law enforcement organisations again met with social media companies to discuss how to tackle online hate in football, and agree further necessary action required against online discriminatory abuse. Those included in the discussion were representatives from Kick It Out, PFA, Premier League, The FA, EFL, League Managers Association, UK Football Policing Unit, Women in Football, Crown Prosecution Service, Home Office and Sky, alongside Twitter and Facebook. 

In addition, Anton Ferdinand provided a player’s perspective of the impact of online hate, in which he said, “As footballers we are held accountable for our actions all the time - why aren’t the people that are sending abuse, and the social media platforms, held to account too? I had no escape from being racially abused, whether that was on the streets or social media. The ripple effect the abuse had on me and my family, I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience that.”

The aim of the initial meeting, which will be a regular fixture moving forward, was to discuss how football and social media can be places where everyone feels they belong, and what action needs to be taken to make that happen. This meeting builds on previous discussions that have taken place between football authorities and social media companies and the existing work undertaken by the football bodies to report and remove offensive messages.

The group identified a set of common principles which will drive their working agenda moving forward. The principles include that: football and social media should be places where everyone feels that they belong; discrimination, hate and abuse towards those who play, support or work in the game is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated; online and offline hate must have real-world consequences for perpetrators and individuals should be held accountable for their actions. 

The group commit to working together transparently as a collective, to develop solutions. They will collaborate to share resources and ideas as swiftly as possible to combat discriminatory behaviour, and will use the power of their collective voices to campaign, challenge and educate individuals to make social media a safe and enjoyable space for all. They will also commit to meeting bi-monthly, working on tangible solutions, and will monitor and communicate progress to the public as this critical work progresses.

Sanjay Bhandari, Executive Chair at Kick It Out, who chaired the discussion, says: “Online hate thrives because there is a culture of impunity – people feel free to say what they want because they are confident there will be no consequences. That must change. Online hate must have real-world consequences. We will only change that culture by working as a team and we will now meet on a regular basis as a working group to drive change. I welcome the commitment of football and social media to turn words of intent into meaningful action.”

Simone Pound, Director of EDI at the PFA, says: “Social media channels represent an extension of the working environment for professional footballers, and as the players' union, we are committed to finding solutions that better protect them online. As part of our work to address this issue which started with the #Enough 24-hour boycott of social media, the PFA has been pushing for collaboration between the platforms, the game, the government, police and CPS to protect the players from the abuse they face daily. This joined-up approach is the only way that we can see the tangible change that is needed to affect policy change and online behaviours. We will continue to monitor this ever-prevalent issue on behalf of our membership and welcome the opportunity for changes to thresholds and policies as well as real-life consequences to online abuse. This will reap overall benefit for the young people, communities and society as a whole to which the game serves.”

Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive, says, “Online discriminatory abuse is unacceptable and tackling this issue must be a priority for football and social media companies. We have made progress in this area through our own central reporting system, which we launched to support players, managers and their families who have been victims of discriminatory online abuse. We investigate each reported case and take legal action where appropriate. Sadly, there are too many instances of footballers and their families receiving horrific discriminatory messages and nobody should have to deal with this. 

“The Premier League welcomes this initiative as a means of persuading social media companies to remove offensive material swiftly and help the Premier League and law enforcement bodies identify perpetrators. We take this extremely seriously and, working together with our partners across football, the police, Crown Prosecution Service and social media companies, we are committed to taking action to fight online abuse and show discrimination will not be tolerated in our sport.”

Edleen John, The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs, and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: "Football must be a game which embraces diversity and tackles discrimination and hateful conduct both on and off the pitch. It’s important that key football stakeholders work alongside social media, police and government to proactively eradicate online abuse. Each has a role to play in ensuring action is taken to prevent, identify and report incidents of online abuse. It’s vital that perpetrators are held accountable, sanctioned and face real-life consequences for their actions, as online abuse can have such a damaging and lasting impact.

"We are striving to create a safe environment for all, and discrimination has no part in the football landscape. We collectively acknowledge that it’s time for change."

Jerry Newman, EMEA Director of Sports Partnerships at Facebook, says: “We don’t want racism or any type of hate speech on Facebook or Instagram. Over the last few years, we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team, created tools to help people manage their experience, including who can message them, and built sophisticated detection technology. In Q3 last year, that technology helped us find 95% of the hate speech content we removed before anyone reported it. But we won’t stop there. As well as developing new safety tools, we’re committed to our ongoing work with the industry, government and others, to collectively drive societal change through action and education.”

Katy Minshall, Head of UK Government, Public Policy and Philanthropy at Twitter UK says, "Racist behaviour has no place on Twitter and we strongly condemn it. We continue to collaborate closely with our partners in football to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively. We welcome the opportunity to work in further partnership to curb this unacceptable behaviour — both online and offline."

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