Monday 23 September 2019

Managers want social media companies to lead fight against online abuse

Tammy Abraham, Paul Pogba and Yakou Meite have all been racially abused on Twitter recently after missing penalties.

Dean Smith led calls for social media company to police abusive posts (Tim Goode/PA)
Dean Smith led calls for social media company to police abusive posts (Tim Goode/PA)

By PA Sport Staff

Premier League managers have put the focus on social media companies to police abuse dished out to players online after a spate of recent incidents.

The past week has seen Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Reading’s Yakou Meite all racially abused on Twitter after missing penalties.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith managed Abraham during the striker’s loan spell last season, and was in charge for the Championship derby when captain Jack Grealish was attacked on the pitch by a Birmingham supporter.

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Tammy Abraham spent last season with Aston Villa (Nick Potts/PA)

Smith said: “If people are saying things on social media, then the social media platforms have to do something about it. Either that or they get named and shamed by people who know what’s right and wrong.

“Tammy Abraham was one of those who came in for some abuse and he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and did fantastic here. And I’m sure Paul Pogba is the same.

“Look at last season at Birmingham, with the Jack Grealish incident – it got dealt with very swiftly then and Birmingham supporters were part of that process to help name and shame the person who did it.

“That’s the way forward, when it’s in the public domain and a person saying it – rather than faceless – then it becomes real and that would soon eradicate the problem.”

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Graham Potter called the recent online abuse of footballers “disturbing” (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Brighton’s Graham Potter, whose club monitor players’ social media accounts for any abuse received, said of the recent incidents: “It’s obviously disturbing news to hear and it’s sad that it happens. Unfortunately, it’s a reflection of society as well to a certain extent.

“They are grown people, they can take their responsibilities with how they use social media and, as a club, I think we do well to try to protect them or advise them how to use that media.”

Phil Neville, head coach of England Women, has called for the “football community” to stay away from social media for six months to force action, building on a successful one-day boycott in April.

But Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder said: “There’s been talk of a boycott but I don’t think that will happen. It might happen for a day or two but (social media has) become so much a way of life and it’s here to stay.

“It’s more down to those who regulate it to do something about it.

“I see the benefits of (social media) but I’ve never got to grips with it. Obviously the negative side of it is that it allows people to abuse other people from behind a desk, miles away.”

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini said it is “impossible” to stop players using social media, a view echoed by Everton’s Marco Silva.

The latter added: “Racism is not just in football. We are talking about society. I think everyone can do more and more to stop it.

“It is important to stop this type of situation, not just in football – in society it is really important.”

Arsenal boss Unai Emery said: “I have (social media) because it’s important to be closer to the supporters and the people, to give them information from me and from the club, to be closer to them.

“But when people cannot control the social media, it’s not positive for us.”

Roy Hodgson admitted he “was not brought up in a Twitter generation” but said he would be happy to help his Crystal Palace players with any online issues.

“When they are being abused and people are affecting their mental health and their attitude towards games, then it is something that rebounds towards me,” he said.

“But no one has told me, ‘If you do this, that would make a big difference’ and I would welcome that. If someone told me to do something that would diminish the excesses I would be very happy to do it.”

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “I am sure they can do something, but we all must be clear – when you have a lot of positives with social media, there will always be negative parts also.

“This anonymous critic, you can post on there, it is never easy to take and there can be tools you can take to maybe stop this.”

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