England Rugby to join social media boycott this weekend

PA Sport Staff
·5-min read

England Rugby is to join football and other sports by boycotting social media this weekend in a unified stand against racism and discrimination.

The Rugby Football Union has confirmed that all of its 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.

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The “show of solidarity against online abuse” takes place between 3pm on Friday and 11.59pm on Monday night.

“No professional sportsperson should have to suffer abuse, racism or harassment on social media,” England women’s captain Sarah Hunter said ahead of Friday’s match against France.

“We’ve all seen how social media can help bring fans and players closer together but this does not mean abuse should be ignored.

“While we have an important Test match in France on Friday, we understand there are bigger and more important issues and hopefully this is an important statement that online hate will not be tolerated.”

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.”

England sponsor Nationwide is joining the social media boycott
England sponsor Nationwide is joining the social media boycott (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Building society Nationwide, which sponsors the England football team and is a partner in the Football Association’s Respect programme, are taking part.

A spokesman told the PA news agency: “There is no place for hate in our society and we are committed to stopping online abuse in its tracks, including racism, threats and verbal assaults.

“As an official partner of the England team and partner of the FA’s Respect campaign, we are standing four-square behind those who receive such vile attacks on a daily basis. To show our support, we’re switching off our proactive social media activity from 3pm on Friday until 11.59pm on Monday, May 3.

“We are not a footballing organisation, but we are an organisation founded on the mutual principles of respect. We hope our support plays a small part in highlighting the issue and helps drive the message that spreading hate is never OK.”

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The action was launched last weekend by 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.

Since it was first announced the boycott has grown as other sport governing bodies, sponsors, partners and broadcasters joined in.

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 and talkSPORT and sponsors adidas, Barclays, Budweiser and Cazoo.

On Thursday afternoon, European football’s governing body UEFA confirmed it would also be taking part in the social media boycott.

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin 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’ve had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies.”

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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 and Scottish Rugby.

“Social media has a massive power to do good, but all too often we see its power to do harm as well,” British Cycling chief executive Brian Facer said.

“Sport is about passion, and while we respect everyone’s right to an opinion it needs to be expressed in an appropriate and respectful way.

“Sport should be inclusive, diverse and welcoming, and athletes must be able to engage with the public without being on the receiving end of sustained, pervasive and abhorrent abuse.

“Equally importantly, the social media companies have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens, and along with other national governing bodies, clubs and individuals, we call on these companies to play their part too.

“By uniting in solidarity this weekend, sport will be highlighting what is a very important issue which impacts a range of areas.

“Hopefully it will make the individuals who post abuse think twice, and force the social media companies – who need the kind of engagement and traffic provided by sport to help generate revenues – to be more proactive too.”