Manchester United publish statistics highlighting scale of online abuse

Man Utd

Ahead of English football’s social media boycott, Manchester United has published statistics which highlight the growing scale of the online abuse directed at its players.

The football community will unite for a social media boycott from 15.00 on Friday 30 April to 23.59 on Monday 3 May, in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players.

Manchester United conducted its own in-depth review into the issue to analyse the level of abuse which players are subjected to across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The review looked at online activity from September 2019 to February 2021 and checked for abusive words being used against players’ names or account handles and covered racist, homophobic and abusive comments.

The analysis has found that since September 2019, there has been a 350% increase in abuse directed towards the club’s players. In the analysis, every abusive post was categorised with 3,300 posts targeting players who were playing for United at that time across the reporting period.

The review found that:

  • 86% of these posts were racist, while 8% were homophobic or transphobic;
  • this activity peaked in January 2021 with over 400 abusive player posts recorded;
  • the vast majority of racist posts contained either the N word (and variants on the spelling) or emojis used with racist intent (monkey, chimp, banana, gorilla).

Fans are also being targeted by abuse on social media. The review highlighted the growing issue of user-to-user abuse within the football community with a sharp rise apparent from the summer of 2020. 43% of these posts were racist in nature, while 7% were homophobic or transphobic.

Manchester United Group Managing Director, Richard Arnold, said:  “We have been actively campaigning against discrimination for some time through our All Red All Equal initiative. The level of support we have received for this work from our fans has been hugely encouraging but these figures show that despite that, the level of abuse our players and fans receive is on the up.

“It must be said that while these numbers are shocking, they do only represent a 0.01% of conversations that take place on social media about the club and the players.

“By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue. It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive.”