London (AFP) – English football clubs will stage a three-day social media boycott next weekend as part of a protest against racism, several national governing bodies announced Saturday.
The blackout, encompassing England’s governing Football Association, clubs in the Premier League, English Football League and Women’s Super League, will begin at 1400 GMT on Friday, April 30 and run until 2259 GMT on Monday, May 3.
Referees and managers’ organisations will also be involved.
A joint statement from the participating organisations said they would unite for a social media boycott “in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football”.
It added: “This has been scheduled to take place across a full fixture programme in the men’s and women’s professional game and will see clubs across the Premier League, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship switch off their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“As a collective, the game recognises the considerable reach and value of social media to our sport. The connectivity and access to supporters who are at the heart of football remains vital.
“However, the boycott shows English football coming together to emphasise that social media companies must do more to eradicate online hate, while highlighting the importance of educating people in the ongoing fight against discrimination.”
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson recently said he would be prepared to follow Arsenal and France great Thierry Henry in abandoning all online activity as a protest against racist behaviour.
Swansea acted after Yan Dhanda, Ben Cabango and Jamal Lowe were all targeted, while England’s Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Raheem Sterling are also among a long list of players to have been subjected to racist abuse.
Many have questioned whether in the long-term, football can really afford to cut itself off from the economic and fan-engagement benefits of social media.
And there are those who argue that ensuring all posters used their real identity would place political dissidents and corporate whistle-blowers at risk as much as it would make it easier to identify racist ‘trolls’.
– ‘Continued fight’ –
But the organisers of this latest blackout said they nonetheless felt compelled to take a stand.
“Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight,” their statement said.
Back in February, eight members of the coalition wrote to Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, the chief executives of Facebook and Twitter, saying their platforms and those of Instagram, owned by Facebook, should be doing more to clamp down on abuse.
Saturday’s statement said “while some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms”.
“While football takes a stand, we urge the UK Government to ensure its online safety bill will bring in strong legislation to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms.”
In Scotland, Rangers staged a week-long boycott following a Europa League match against Slavia Prague where Glen Kamara was abused.
Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela has been banned for 10 matches by UEFA after being found guilty of racist behaviour towards Kamara.
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