Aleksander Ceferin feels now is the time to stand together to stop online abuse

PA Sport Staff
·5-min read

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin feels now is the time for football and society to stand together to stop “cowards” from spreading online abuse.

European football’s governing body UEFA confirmed on Thursday afternoon it would be taking part in a collective social media boycott this weekend as part of a united front against racism and discrimination.

The action was initially launched by English football’s governing bodies – with the FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers Association, PGMOL, Kick It Out, Women in Football and the Football Supporters’ Association all suspending use of their social media accounts.

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Since it was first announced, the boycott has grown as other sport governing bodies, sponsors, partners, broadcasters and media outlets came on board.

Ceferin hopes such direct action will speak volumes in the drive for change as social media channels fall silent from 3pm on Friday until 11.59pm on Monday night.

He said: “There have been abuses both on the pitch and on social media. This is unacceptable and needs to be stopped, with the help of the public and legislative authorities and the social media giants.

“Allowing a culture of hatred to grow with impunity is dangerous, very dangerous, not only for football, but for society as a whole.

“This is why we are supporting this initiative. It is time for football to take a stand and I have been impressed with the solidarity shown by the players, clubs and stakeholders.

“I urge everyone – players, clubs and national associations – to lodge formal complaints whenever players, coaches, referees or officials are victims of unacceptable tweets or messages.

“We have had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”

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England Rugby confirmed on Thursday morning it would be boycotting social media this weekend, a stance which was followed by Scottish Rugby and across Scottish football.

All of the Rugby Football Union’s social channels – including England Rugby, Allianz Premier 15s, Greene King IPA Championship and GB7s – will observe the blackout.

Clubs competing in the Premier 15s and Championship will also join a boycott that will be in place among Gallagher Premiership sides as a “show of solidarity against online abuse”.

Great Britain and England Hockey are also joining the boycott, with a joint statement saying: “There should be zero tolerance of online discrimination or hate of any kind.”

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British Cycling also confirmed a stand of “solidarity with all of those who have suffered or continue to suffer abuse” in announcing the organisation’s participation in the boycott, which will also be supported by the Professional Darts Corporation.

The Rugby Football League has joined the sporting boycott of social media, along with Super League, organisers of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the Rugby League Players’ Association.

British Horseracing said it will take part in the boycott from 9pm on Friday evening, following a planned commemoration of the life of Lorna Brooke.

The England and Wales Cricket Board, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League are taking part, as are broadcasters BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video Sport and talkSPORT.

Sponsors Adidas, Barclays, Budweiser and Cazoo have also pledged to support the campaign, along with building society Nationwide, which sponsors the England football team and is a partner in the FA’s Respect programme.

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Other media outlets, including Sky Sports, will also be taking direct action. All of The Sun’s Twitter accounts – including Sport, Football, TV and Showbiz – will stop posting over the weekend, while Guardian Sport is another to support the cause.

Liverpool, which like other Premier League clubs is participating in the boycott, have launched a ‘Stop The Hate, Stand Up, Report It’ campaign for fans to report incidents of racism, hate and discriminatory abuse online, while also introducing a new reporting system to log incidents of abuse both online and in the stadium when fans return.

Sir Lewis Hamilton is also ready to join this weekend’s social media blackout. It is understood that F1 bosses discussed the topic with all 10 teams ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix and there are no plans to join the boycott.

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But seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has 22million followers on Instagram and more than six million on Twitter, said: “I am fully supportive of the initiative.

“If me doing it helps put pressure on those platforms in order to help fight against it then, for sure, I am happy to do so.”

Hamilton, F1’s sole black driver, added: “I am really proud to hear there are so many organisations getting involved.

“I am not sure why Formula One is not a part of that. But I heard Sky are for example, and as I said, I probably will follow it and support it this weekend.

“For me it is clear that racism continues to be an issue and social media platforms need to do more in order to combat this.

“There are algorithms and they are able to see things and take steps to create an anti-racist society and that is what we have got to be pushing towards.”