Open letter sent to government after 23 England Women players receive online abuse during Euro 2022

England beat Germany in the Euro 2022 final
England beat Germany in the Euro 2022 final / Visionhaus/GettyImages

60 of the biggest names in sports have signed a letter, penned by EE, calling on the government to better protect women and girls online by introducing stringent policies as part of the proposed Online Safety Bill. 

Signatories of the letter - who include Gareth Southgate, Marcus Rashford, Eni Aluko and Lucy Bronze - have teamed with EE and Glitch in order to lobby the government to set out clearer rules for what is and isn’t acceptable online, and for social media platforms to take increased action in upholding their terms of service and reducing abusive content.

The open letter reveals that 23 out of the 25 members of England's Women's Euro 2022 winning-squad were subjected to online sexist abuse, with said abuse growing after games which England won.

The open letter reads:

"Dear Sir/Madam

"It was wonderful to see the Lionesses win the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 in July. While millions supported them on social media, there were also a dark side seen throughout the tournament.

"We recently worked with HateLab, a global hub for hate crime, in the run up to and during the tournament. HateLab identified that 23 out of 25 members of the squad were sent online sexist hate, the kind that can't be printed here. This abuse grew when the team won matches, reaching its peak when they won in the final.

"But abuse is not just a problem for female footballers - it is for all women and girls. According to a YouGov survey we conducted in April, women are than 17 times more likely to have experienced sexism than men and more than half of people believed the internet isn't a safe space for women.

"EE's Hope United - a team of elite footballers from across the UK brought together to tackle online hate in all its forms - started in 2021, where over 31 million saw our TV ad and we taught 3.7m digital skills needed to combat online hate.

"Following our recent campaign around online sexist hate, we believe the new government must pass the full Online Safety Bill, and honour its promise 'to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online'. We believe that legislators should go further, naming violence against women and girls as a priority harm in the Bill, alongside terrorism and child sexual abuse (CSAM) and bringing the Bill into line with strategic policy requirements.

"It's vital for the government to set out clearer rules for what is and isn't acceptable online, and to require social media companies to uphold their terms and conditions and reduce the amount of abusive content circulating online.

"Abuse is more than just 'hurt feelings', it stops individuals from participating in public and online life, stops them from being able to express themselves and in the worst cases, can lead to someone taking their own life.

"Together we can beat online hate."

Signed: Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Gareth Southgate, Virgil van Dijk, Brian O'Driscoll, Joe Cole, Joleon Lescott, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Eni Aluko, Paul Dempsey, Tony Duggan, Dan Bachman, Harry Maguire, Martin Keown, Gabby Logan, Andy Summerton, Lawrence Dallaglio, Lee Dixon, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Declan Rice, Aaron Ramsdale, Ugo Monye, Chris Sutton, Peter Walton, Jeff Brazier, Austin Healy, Steve McManaman, Jake Humphrey, Lynsey Hipgrave. Becky Ives, Clare Balding, Matt Smith, Lucy Ward, Les Ferdinand, Ian Darke, Marcus Rashford, Peter Crouch, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Savage, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Anton Ferdinand, Reshmin Chowdhury, Michael Owen, Seema Jawsal, Fara Williams, Craig Doyle, Jules Breach, Danny Jamieson, Owen Farrell, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Glenn Hoddle, Steve Sidwell, Mark Noble, Jay Bothroyd, Michail Antonio, Natasha Harding,Marc Allera, CEO of EE, Seyi Akiwowo, Founder & CEO, Glitch.