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'Enough is enough': Uefa president wants permanent social media boycott if abuse isn't tackled

'Enough is enough': Uefa president wants permanent social media boycott if abuse isn't tackled - REUTERS
'Enough is enough': Uefa president wants permanent social media boycott if abuse isn't tackled - REUTERS

Football should permanently boycott social media if the platforms do not deal with abuse and discrimination, according to Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin.

European football’s governing body joined the recent protest organised through the Premier League and Football Association for a four-day boycott of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter because of the social media companies' inability to stamp out incidents of racial, sexist and other forms of abuse.

Ceferin said the time is coming for far more drastic action and revealed he plans to meet with Thierry Henry, who became the first high-profile sports person to disable his accounts in protest at racism and bullying - declaring that it was “too toxic to ignore”.

“Yes, but that was just one step,” Ceferin said of the recent boycott which was also backed by rugby union, rugby league and cricket. “Now we have to be concrete and say ‘look we will boycott, everybody will boycott it’. Yes, permanently. It’s their task; it’s their platform. The abusers use the platforms and no-one knows who these cowards are.

“We have to approach the companies and say ‘enough’ and that’s why we are preparing to have a meeting with Thierry because we have discussed it and he thinks the same way.

“We are ready to approach together with some institutions, to speak with the European Commission. Enough of this. And it’s not just racism. These insults, discrimination on Twitter, have gone sky-high. If you see politicians, top politicians insulting people you can imagine what these primitive idiots are doing.

“I think this is the only way because we are strong, we are big users of this. Imagine how much football and all surrounding football is using social media? It’s a big impact if we say ‘look now it’s enough’. So that’s an important task for us.”

Thierry Henry is the highest profile footballer to quit social media, citing anonymous accounts that troll - JOHN NGUYEN/JNVISUALS
Thierry Henry is the highest profile footballer to quit social media, citing anonymous accounts that troll - JOHN NGUYEN/JNVISUALS

Uefa has a strong social media presence and if it took the lead then clubs, league and players would hopefully follow in coming off the platforms. Cristiano Ronaldo, alone, has 92.1 million followers, for example.

Ceferin said he was appalled at the abuse directed at Marcus Rashford following Manchester United’s Europa League final defeat by Villarreal last week. “I read about it,” he said. “I think that, of course on top of sanctions and everything, we have to approach the social media giants and say ‘enough’.”

In the UK it was announced in the Queen’s Speech that the government will introduce an Online Safety Bill which will threaten social media companies with huge fines if they do not remove harmful content quickly enough.

Ceferin accepted Uefa also had to work harder, as do other organisations within football, to be more diverse and representative. “Yes, we have already done it with the disciplinary committee (which deals with racist incidents),” he said. “Now for the executive committee.”

However Ceferin said it was up to the national associations to help. “It’s very important that the FAs have to put the candidates forward. I cannot say ‘I like this man or this woman’,” he said. “But you are right – all the similar people are there all the time.”