Phil Neville calls for social media boycott to combat racist abuse

Suzanne Wrack

Phil Neville has called for the football community to “send a powerful message” and boycott social media for six months in response to the rise in racist abuse of players after Paul Pogba was targeted online after missing a penalty for Manchester United at Wolves.

“I’ve lost total faith in whoever runs these social media departments, so I just wonder whether now as a football community, in terms of really sending a powerful message, is: come off social media,” said the England women’s manager. “Six months – let’s come off social media. Let’s see the effect that it has on these social media companies, whether they’re really going to do something about it.”

Phil Neville has called for the football community to “send a powerful message” and boycott social media for six months in response to the rise in racist abuse of players after Paul Pogba was targeted online after missing a penalty for Manchester United at Wolves.

Pogba is the third player to have suffered online racist abuse in a week that has seen Tammy Abraham receive similar abuse following Chelsea’s Super Cup defeat by Liverpool and Reading striker Yakou Méïté highlighted messages sent to him following his saved penalty against Cardiff.

In October last year Neville similarly condemned “absolutely disgraceful” abuse directed at England and Chelsea’s Karen Carney following her team’s last-16 Champions League win over Fiorentina. The winger posted screenshots of messages received which included rape threats, death threats and wishing she got cancer.

“We talk to them all the time because my players get that kind of abuse all the time, whether it’s racist, whether it’s sexist, whether it’s homophobic,” Neville said. “They get that kind of abuse. Nothing gets done about it, but we experienced it earlier in the season.

“It’s not going away, I think there’s some fantastic campaigns, initiatives, messaging that goes out, particularly in the Premier League, through the FA, about trying to stamp out racism. And at times, you feel as if you’re making inroads, and then you get probably a massive reminder that actually we’re probably not.

“It’s a problem not just in football – it’s a problem in society, but football now is at the forefront of everybody’s minds in terms of, we’ve got the power to do something about it. I think the football community will. I think we try, but it’s getting to the point now where I think we need to make a real strong message, and I say to every single footballer out there, and to every club, and to the PFA: why don’t we make a big stand? Come off social media. Boycott all social media now, and see if that makes a big enough impact.”

READ MORE: Australia talisman Steve Smith ruled out of third Test

READ MORE: Football hooliganism numbers up as police fear return to 1980s violence

READ MORE: Manchester United 'disgusted' by racist abuse of Paul Pogba following penalty miss

Echoing Pogba’s Manchester United teammate Harry Maguire, who tweeted his disgust of the abuse aimed at the midfielder, Neville called for all accounts to be verified and accountable: “Maguire said this morning about being verified, giving passport details and addresses to be hold accountable for posting such disgusting things. You can be an egg on Twitter and no one knows who you are.”

Twitter said in a statement: “We’re fully aware of and share the concerns surrounding online racist abuse towards certain footballers in the UK over recent days. We strongly condemn this unacceptable behaviour, and have now permanently suspended a series of accounts for violating our Hateful Conduct Policy. We’re proactively monitoring the conversation online and will continue taking robust action on any account which violates our rules.

“This is a societal issue and requires a societal response. This is why we maintain a dialogue with both the PFA and Kick It Out and are committed to working together to address abusive online and racist behaviour across the industry. We continue to liaise closely with our partners to identify meaningful solutions to this unacceptable behaviour — both offline and on.”

Featured from our writers