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CHARLIE CHRISTIE – More has to be done to tackle online abuse towards footballers

By Will Clark

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I WAS intrigued this week to read the report from the Alan Turing Institute regarding the online abuse suffered by English Premier League footballers.

Charlie Christie.
Charlie Christie.

The report included some startling and worrying facts about a minority of football supporters’ online behaviour.

Whilst most supporters use social media in a positive manner, almost 20 per cent of posts were critical with close to four per cent of those being termed ‘vile and abusive.’

The two most abused players were Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire of Manchester United – obviously indicative of the poor season that United endured last season although in Ronaldo’s case it should be remembered that he has an incredible number of social media followers – the most in the British game.

The report highlighted several individual cases where there was a definite trend towards abusive tweets being posted on the same day that matches were played. Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark received an abundance of abusive tweets on the day that he was sent off against Norwich, as did James McArthur of Crystal Palace on the day he was yellow carded for allegedly stamping on Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.

To me this illustrates a worrying picture of football fans going home after a match and thinking they have the right to go online and freely and without recourse, abuse any individual they wish. Nobody can tell me that is acceptable in modern day society.

Whilst freedom of speech and personal expression is a must in any democracy more must be done to combat this type of abuse.

Initiatives such as the BBC’s ‘Hate Won’t Win’ campaign is all very well, but without support from the authorities and the tech companies who operate the online platforms efforts to eradicate this disgusting behaviour will prove fruitless.

After the Scottish League kick off last weekend the spotlight now turns to the English Premiership with the opening day fixtures commencing this evening with a London derby at Crystal Palace where Arsenal are the visitors.

The question many supporters are asking is who might challenge the hugely talented Liverpool and Manchester City squads this season and pip them to the title? Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal have all spent significant amounts of money trying to close the current gap but, after witnessing last Saturday’s terrific Charity Shield match between the top two, I still think either Pep Guardiola’s or Jurgen Klopp’s side will prevail come next May.

I travel south with my wife as guests of Bournemouth Football Club for their opening day fixture against Aston Villa in which we’re hoping son Ryan will thrive on his Premiership debut.

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