Premier League

English football announces social media boycott

Toby Cudworth
Apr 25, 2021, 12:20 AM GMT+1
There will be a social media blackout for almost four days across all professional organisations
There will be a social media blackout for almost four days across all professional organisations / Chesnot/Getty Images

In a response to ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse online, there will be a widespread boycott of social media from The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA.

Scheduled across a full fixture programme in both the men's and women's professional game, all clubs across the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship will switch off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from 3pm onwards on Friday 30 April, running through until 11.59pm on Monday 3 May.

A press release from the Football Association detailed the need for a boycott to show English football coming together in the fight to combat online hate, while emphasising to social media companies that more must be done in the fight against all forms of discrimination.

More action will be taken to try and deter online abuse / JUSTIN SETTERFIELD/Getty Images

The action is a direct follow up to a letter sent to social media companies in February 2021, when English football 'outlined its requests of social media companies, urging filtering, blocking and swift takedowns of offensive posts', as well as calling for 'an improved verification process and re-registration prevention, plus active assistance for law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute originators of illegal content'.

Some progress in these areas has been noted in the press release, but there's remained a relentless stream of discriminatory messages sent across all social media platforms over the past few months - evidenced by a number of footballers, from both the men's and women's game, making public the abuse they've received.

The UK Government has also been urged to bring in stronger legislation in their Online Safety Bill, making social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platform.

Here's what a few leading figures behind the initiative had to say.

Edleen John - The FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-Partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

“It’s simply unacceptable that people across English football and society more broadly continue to be subjected to discriminatory abuse online on a daily basis, with no real-world consequences for perpetrators.

"This needs to change quickly, and we continue to urge social media companies to act now to address this. We will not stop talking about this issue and will continue to work with government in ensuring that the Online Safety Bill gives sufficient regulatory and supervisory powers to Ofcom.

“We have recently seen how powerful it can be when everybody is united for the good of the English game. We are calling on organisations and individuals across the game to join us in a temporary boycott of these social media platforms, to show solidarity and unite in the message that English football will not tolerate discrimination in any form.”

Richard Masters - Premier League Chief Executive

Richard Masters
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters / Alex Morton/Getty Images

“Racist behaviour of any form is unacceptable and the appalling abuse we are seeing players receive on social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue. 

“The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred. We will not stop challenging social media companies and want to see significant improvements in their policies and processes to tackle online discriminatory abuse on their platforms.

“Football is a diverse sport, which brings together communities and cultures from all backgrounds and this diversity makes the competition stronger. No Room For Racism represents all the work we do to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and tackling discrimination.”

Sanjay Bhandari - Kick It Out Chair

“Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse. This boycott signifies our collective anger at the damage this causes to the people who play, watch and work in the game. By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.

“We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family. We need the Government to hold its nerve and keep its promises to regulate. The Online Safety Bill could be a game changer and we aim to help make that happen. There should be no space for hate and everyone can play their part. If you watch, work in or love the game, join in.” 

Richard Bevan - Chief Executive at the LMA

“The LMA fully supports the social media boycott across the professional game. A unified silence will send a loud and powerful message to those that perpetrate online abuse that their actions will no longer be tolerated, and to the social media companies that they have a responsibility to do everything in their power to eradicate online hate.  

“We also urge the Government to understand the significance of this collective action and to ensure that its Online Safety Bill delivers appropriately strong legislation.”