Highland football, rugby and cricket outfits stand united in support of campaign against hate and discrimination on social media
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Sport across the Highlands and north of Scotland will unite this weekend in solidarity against the scourge of online abuse and discrimation by joining a UK-wide boycott of social media.
The black-out across platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn comes amid widespread outrage at the continued prevalence of vile and hateful online abuse.
Clubs, players, officials and governing bodies from the north’s football, rugby and cricket worlds will stand together with the #StopOnlineAbuse and #FootballUnites campaigns.
It amounts to a local show of anger and protest at the failure of global social media giants to act to tackle racism, sexism and all other forms of trolling.
Football has led the way nationally, with players the driving force.
Locally, Championship club Caley Thistle were quick to throw their weight behind the black-out - from today at 3pm until midnight on Monday - with chief executive officer Scot Gardiner announcing that all coverage of tonight’s final league match against Ayr United would now be exclusively at www.ictfc.com, with no social media updates.
CEO Scot Gardiner said: “We very much stand shoulder to shoulder with the other clubs and sports to convey the message that online abuse and discrimination of any kind is completely unacceptable.
“We have been consistent in our use of the phrase #TogetherNess since March 2020 when the pandemic first struck and we started work to help our community, and this completely inclusive sentiment applies across every aspect of what we do and what we stand for as a club.
“We are aware that many of our fans follow the match through our social media channels, and I’m pleased to confirm that for this Friday’s match only, updates will now be provided on our website www.ictfc.com.
“I would urge any supporters who want to follow the game online to please use this method.”
Highland neighbours Ross County also wholeheartedly back the campaign.
County chief executive Steven Ferguson stressed: “Players, players’ families, staff and fans across the Scottish game have been exposed to totally unnecessary and disgusting racist and discriminatory abuse in recent times.
“This campaign is also a call to work with social media companies to ensure we all form a stronger frontier to rid our game and society of this abuse.
“Having taken part in the SFA Equality Summit a couple of weeks ago it is clear to see that as individuals, clubs and as a whole we need to do - and can do - more to tackle discrimination and abuse within Scottish Football and our society.
“This season, more than most, has highlighted the need for constructive action and unity to continue to try and stamp out any form of discrimination.
“Football is for all. Ross County is a community club that covers a vast area and it is our belief that nobody should be discriminated against and everybody should be supported and encouraged to be part of the game we all love.”
Highland League clubs Clach and Nairn County are also backing the black-out, with league secretary Rod Houston announcing a four-day boycott was agreed unanimously by clubs at Thursday night’s SHFL league management committee meeting.
A league statement read: "The league continues to find all forms of social media trolling beneath contempt and urges all companies to install more stringent blocking systems.
"The league wishes to express its complete support for all those who suffer as a result of such activity and urges everyone to ensure that those victims are cared for.
"It also calls on authorities to utilise legislative action to attack this unwanted element of modern day life."
Highland Rugby Club is backing rugby union’s and rugby league’s national stance against the scourge of online discrimination.
Coach John Budge said: “We are aware of all the hate and harmful nonsense that can be so damaging online and we support the objectives wholeheartedly.
“The only way we can get the attention of these people is to act collectively and stand together in sport.”
John Paul, chair of Highland Cricket Club, stressed his team had little social media presence and activity, but stressed: “We stand totally behind the aims of the social media black-out.
“As a club, we’re completely behind the principal of equality and mutual respect and against discrimination in all its forms.”
William Ford, vice-captain of Northern Counties, said: “It is an important gesture. People need to be properly punished for online abuse, as opposed to slapped on the wrist.
“The big companies in sport and social media must do more and we can all do more to tackle this scourge.
“Cricket nationally, I feel, has dealt well with instances of this problem, and we, as a club, stand right behind the campaign.”