The Football Association could join the Premier League and Football League clubs in boycotting social media as part of a general blackout.
The Mail on Sundays may reveal that there is a growing desire from clubs up and down the divisions to hold a league-wide boycott of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to pressure the platforms to do more after an increase in online abuse.
Top clubs have already discussed collective action ahead of a meeting of football’s key stakeholders next week.
The FA can join Premier League and EFL clubs to boycott social media in an all-out blackout
Swansea led the way when they announced on Thursday that the club, players and staff would be off social media for seven days. The Championship side said enough is enough after three of their players – Jamal Lowe, Yan Dhanda and Ben Cabango – have all been victims of racial abuse this season.
They were soon joined by fellow championship side Birmingham City and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, while Reading captain Liam Moore deactivated his Twitter account after he was racially abused. The Liverpool trio of Trent Alexander Arnold, Naby Kieta and Sadio Mane were targeted after their midweek defeat to Real Madrid.
After Swansea’s decision, the Mail on Sunday asked all other 91 league clubs as well as the Premier League, EFL and FA if they would consider a boycott.
Swansea led the way after three players, including Jamal Lowe (above), were racially abused
There was a strong consensus among those who responded that concerted action would send the strongest message. A boycott involving clubs in all four divisions will be discussed at a meeting of the Premier League, EFL and other agencies such as Kick It Out scheduled for early next week.
The Mail on Sundays sparked calls for a boycott on social media in February, when former cabinet minister and head of the football working group David Mellor urged clubs to use their power and distance themselves from the platforms.
The FA confirmed they would consider joining clubs in a boycott if a blanket ban is passed. “We support any club or player who wants to take a respectful stand against any form of discrimination, including the boycott of social media platforms,” said a spokesman. The Mail on Sundays
Creating a game free from discrimination remains a core priority for our organization and we will continue to use our platforms to openly challenge online hatred. We are in regular talks with other English football authorities and if it is collectively felt that a boycott of social media platforms would have the desired effect and lead to tangible change, that is something we would consider. ‘
Top clubs have already discussed collective action ahead of a rally next week
Sheffield United striker Rhian Brewster is one of many Premier League players targeted by racists this season, and the Blades have confirmed they want to send the strongest message to social media organizations.
Sheffield United remains committed to tackling racism and a social media boycott is just one of the measures being considered, a club spokesman said. The Mail on Sundays
Discussions are underway between the club, players and stakeholders, but senior officials believe that a collective, with the Premier League at the forefront, will deliver a stronger message to the relevant organizations. Some of our players have been victims of horrific online abuse and we are happy to participate in any measures that will make a difference. ‘
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho and Aston Villa manager Dean Smith backed calls for a massive boycott on Friday, while Arsenal and Manchester United have also launched their own club-specific anti-abuse campaigns.
Jose Mourinho (pictured) and Dean Smith have both also backed calls for a massive boycott
“The club thinks, analyzes every detail and of course the club wants to make an impact,” Mourinho said while Smith added: “It should be a ban on all football. We have to take a stand on this. ‘
How long clubs maintain a boycott remains to be seen. They have previously been reluctant to implement such blackouts as many of their lucrative commercial contracts are related to fan engagements on such platforms.
A number of club sources have said they believe sponsors will be on board with an effort to eradicate online abuse, but West Brom manager Sam Allardyce admitted that money is being talked about.
‘I would like an accumulation of football clubs to do it all together. That would be the only way for me to make a difference. But if that meant that you would lose income by surviving and if you try to help with these abusive messages, unfortunately the money can wipe that out. Many people are in financial trouble because of the pandemic. ‘
The EFL has been in talks with its clubs to boycott any of the discussed options across the league
The EFL has already held talks with its clubs about collective action with a competition-wide boycott of one of the options discussed. Clubs have said they expect more guidance from the EFL on Monday.
“In addition to division meetings, the EFL continues to consult clubs regarding collective action regarding the ongoing and persistent racist, discriminatory and threatening abuse of players and other members of the football community online,” said an EFL spokesperson. The Mail on Sundays
‘The football authorities have consistently challenged social media companies to use their platforms to drive change and as part of the Football Online Hate Working Group, we continue to work with stakeholders to create conditions that ensure there are real consequences for online abuse.’
Almost every club that answered our questions made it clear that they believe social media companies should do a lot more to tackle racist and offensive messages.
Football authorities sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook urging them to stop abuse
Football authorities, including the Premier League, FA, EFL and the PFA, sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook in February urging them to end racial abuse on their platforms.
While the Premier League would not confirm whether they would join a group boycott, a spokesman said The Mail on SundaysRacist behavior in any form is unacceptable and tackling online hatred is a priority for the Premier League. Our immediate focus is on expanding our online monitoring and reporting systems, strongly challenging social media companies to block and eliminate discriminatory abuse from their platforms and help us take legal action against violators.
“We are also working with the government to ensure that our views are heard on the upcoming online security law legislation, which we expect will bring about real change in this area as well. We continue to support players, managers and their families who are discriminatedly abused online. This revolting abuse allowed by social media platforms should not continue and cooperate with our clubs and our football partners, we will not stop until it is removed from our game. ‘
The government’s online security bill, due out later this year, will face heavy fines if companies fail to act quickly and protect their users.
The government’s online security law threatens hefty fines if companies fail to act quickly and protect their users (Photo: Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden)
Clubs are committed to monitoring, blocking and reporting abuse of their players online. The Premier League launched a reporting tool for players, managers and their families last year.
Much of the monitoring at clubs is done by individuals, and a source at a Premier League club said they feared for the mental health of their employees charged with trawling through abuse.
The fact that much of the abuse is sent from anonymous accounts from abroad often makes it difficult to track down and prosecute perpetrators.
The hope is that a widespread boycott and proposed government sanctions will put even more pressure on social media companies to get their own homes in order.