Sat. May 25th, 2024

How will players be protected from online abuse during World Cup?

By Leah Kellman Nov 23, 2022
Blurred background, but an in focus shot of Gareth Southgate hugging Bukayo SakaBukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho faced racial abuse online after they missed penalties at the Euros. Credit: Carl Recine/Shutterstock

It’s that time again when even non-footie fans become obsessed for one month rooting for their nation to win the cup that says that their country is the best. It’s also a time to spend time with family and friends and just simply enjoy the wonderful world of football.

But unfortunately, that joy can be taken away when you browse through your feed and see hateful and racist posts targeted at black players.

It has been over a year since England’s young black players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho suffered horrific racial abuse online after they missed penalties at the Euros last year.

A projector at Waterloo station with the faces of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. Next to Saka says 'Our Three Lions'.
The young lions were sent horrific racist messages last year. Credit: Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock

The FA were quick to respond at the time and posted a statement on their official website stating they “strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and are appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media”.

To prevent this from happening they followed up by saying that they will “support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible”.

So what has happened? The FA noted in February that the government will strengthen their Online Safety Bill to protect users on social media sites from anonymous trolls.

Long in the making, the bill has been delayed but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says that online safety laws will be in place before next spring. However there are fears the bill will run out of time or could be scrapped altogether.

So far FIFA, has launched a social media protection service that aims to protect the well-being of players as well as tackle discrimination ahead of the World Cup.

According to their website their service is “designed to minimise visibility of hate speech aimed at them on social media” and protect fans from seeing it as well.

Close up shot of Willian wearing a Fulham FC white jersey.
Willian is glad that he is part of the FIFA campaign to stop footballers being racially abused online. Credit: Bruna Prado/Shutterstock

Former Brazilian forward Willian is supporting the launch of the scheme after he became a victim of online abuse when playing for Corinthians last year. The abuse got so bad that trolls targeted his family, forcing his return to England where he is currently playing for Fulham FC.

He said: “[They were] attacking my family, my daughters, and that’s why I’m standing now with FIFA to see if you can stop these kinds of things.”

Even though FIFA is stepping up and taking charge of the situation, big social media companies such as Twitter and Instagram also have a responsibility to prevent these harmful messages from being posted on their sites and to make sure trolls are permanently banned.

The extent to which that is happening is debatable.

By Leah Kellman

Role: Features editor

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