Manchester United have banned six fans for abusing Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and revealed online abuse aimed at their players has increased 350 per cent ahead of this weekend’s social media boycott.
Chelsea also announced on Friday a decade-long ban to a supporter for anti-Semitic posts as social media accounts across English football and beyond prepare to shut down from 3pm until 11.59pm on Monday.
A coalition of football’s largest governing bodies and organisations, including the Football Association, Premier League and EFL, are to go silent on social media in a show of solidarity against sustained, sickening and spiralling abuse.
United players have been frequent targets and the club’s own in-depth review of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook has found 3,300 abusive posts were aimed at their players between September 2019 to February 2021.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 30, 2021
The club said 86 per cent of those posts were racist, with eight per cent homophobic or transphobic, and activity peaked in January 2021, when over 400 abusive player posts were recorded.
United say since September 2019 “there has been a 350 per cent increase in abuse directed towards the club’s players”, plus they are acting on the abuse of others.
The club said: “Manchester United has instigated club sanction proceedings against six individuals alleged to have breached club rules by abusing Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son on social media following the match on 11 April.
“Regretfully, suspensions have been issued, subject to appeal, to three season ticket holders, two official members and one individual on the season ticket waiting list.
“This disciplinary action demonstrates the club’s commitment to the fight against discrimination on many fronts.”
Statement on sanctions in response to abusive messages.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 30, 2021
Chelsea also announced the ban of a supporter on the morning of the boycott for posting anti-Semitic messages online.
The statement read: “Following the conclusion of court proceedings in February, the Club conducted our own investigation into the matter and has taken the decision to ban the individual from Chelsea FC for a period of 10 years.
“Everybody at Chelsea is proud to be part of a diverse club. Our players, staff, fans and visitors to the club come from a wide range of backgrounds, including the Jewish community, and we want to ensure everyone feels safe, valued and included.
“We will not tolerate any behaviour from supporters that threatens that aim.”
Thierry Henry has called football’s social media boycott this weekend a “start” in the fight against racism and discrimination.
Last month the Arsenal great removed himself from social media because of racism and bullying across the platforms.
“A lot of people are – I’m not saying waking up, because everyone was aware of it – but now they’re loud about it and the same energy that they put with the Super League,” Henry told CNN.
“It looks like we’re getting brave into trying to make those big companies answer to the question that we have, and I know it’s not easy also on their side, but that’s your job.
“(What) the world of English football is doing at the minute and what’s going to happen at the weekend, people ask me, ‘Is it enough, the weekend?’
“And I’m like, ‘It’s a start’. You know, you can’t be too greedy from not having anything to that. It’s a start.
English football will unite for a social media boycott from 3pm on Friday 30 April to 11:59pm on Monday 3 May, in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to the game.https://t.co/GYTAuWAEgN pic.twitter.com/dNLuv62nw5
— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) April 24, 2021
“But yes, we have a voice, we have a voice all together. We can actually make people aware of our disapproval and hope that things can change. If you don’t do anything, nothing would ever change.
“Maybe not this year, maybe not in two years, maybe not in three years. Maybe we might not see it, but you have to do something while you are passing by.”
Since it was first announced, the boycott has grown as other sport governing bodies, sponsors, partners, broadcasters and media outlets have come on board.
European governing body UEFA will take part, as well as Scottish football, England Rugby, Scottish Rugby, British Cycling, the Rugby Football League, British Horseracing, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Lawn Tennis Association, International Tennis Federation and others.
We are wholly committed to combatting any form of racism, online or otherwise
We continue to call out and report any incident of online hate, and we encourage our fans to do the same pic.twitter.com/VXPvwBita8Advertisement
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 30, 2021
Although Formula One will not take part following discussions, Sir Lewis Hamilton is also ready to join the boycott on the weekend of the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion, 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.”
Formula One has issued a statement supporting the boycott, saying: “We continue to work with all platforms and our own audiences to promote respect and positive values and put a stop to racism.”