Eni Aluko ‘scared’ to leave home after Joey Barton online abuse

Former England football international and ITV pundit Eni Aluko says she is “scared” to leave her home due to the abuse she suffered as a result of Joey Barton’s social media posts.

Aluko revealed in a 15-minute video posted on Instagram on Tuesday that she is taking legal action against Barton, who compared her and fellow pundit Lucy Ward to serial killers Fred and Rose West.

Aluko said online abuse has led to her fearing for her safety and has warned the issue could lead to a female broadcaster taking their own life.

Barton, a once-capped England international, has posted a number of abusive comments online in recent weeks, hitting out at female pundits who work in men’s football.

The former Manchester City and QPR midfielder described ITV pundits Aluko and Ward as “the Fred and Rose West of football commentary” on Twitter/X, following the channel’s coverage of Crystal Palace’s FA Cup tie with Everton last Thursday.

ITV responded by describing Barton’s comments as “vindictive” and sports minister Stuart Andrew has condemned the “dangerous” comments.

“Now, I’m open and honest and I’m human and I’m more than happy to admit that I’ve been scared this week,” Aluko said.

“I’ve genuinely been scared this week. I didn’t leave my house until Friday and I’m now abroad.

“It’s really important to say that online abuse has a direct impact on your safety and how you feel and how safe you feel in real life.

“I’ve felt under threat this week. I’ve felt like something is going to happen to me. And I don’t say that for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say that for people to understand the reality and the impact that hate speech has, the impact that racism has, the impact that sexism has, the impact that misogyny has on all of us females in the game, in sports broadcasting.

“That’s the real impact – and it’s not an isolated incident, this is now showing up as a culture in the game, from certain fan bases and certain people.

Laura Woods and Eni Aluko reporting for ITV before the Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier between England and North Macedonia at St Mary’s in Southampton, in September 2021 (Getty)
Laura Woods and Eni Aluko reporting for ITV before the Women's World Cup 2023 qualifier between England and North Macedonia at St Mary’s in Southampton, in September 2021 (Getty)

“They’re creating a culture where people don’t want to go to work, people don’t want to leave their house, people feel under threat. Obviously there’s a big impact on mental health as well.”

While Aluko did not mention Barton by name, she accused him of being sexist, racist and misogynistic and of having a “violent history”.

Aluko mentioned television presenter Caroline Flack, who died by suicide in 2020. “If you come out and are racist, or sexist or misogynistic and threaten people online, there are laws for that, that govern that behaviour, so it’s not free [speech],” she said.

“There are consequences for that. And over the past week I’ve taken advice from lawyers and a course of action has now been decided upon.”

She added: “My fear, actually, is that the next time this happens, if we don’t really put a stop to this, is that that girl or that woman kills herself.

“I’m not being hyperbolic about that when I say that it’s happened. Caroline Flack, God rest her soul, killed herself, largely because of the online abuse that she was getting.

“At what point are we going to understand that this needs to stop? Sexism, racism, misogyny is not an opinion. It’s not freedom of speech. It’s against the law. It’s as simple as that.”

Includes reporting from PA