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Monday 16 September 2019

Neville calls for 'fooball' social media boycott

Phil Neville
Phil Neville

Phil Neville is calling on the "football community" to boycott social media platforms until they do more to tackle the discriminatory abuse directed at players.

Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, Reading's Yakou Meite and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba have all received vile, racist abuse online after failing to score penalties in the last week.

Pogba's treatment prompted a rapid response from his club, which issued a strong statement yesterday to condemn the abuse and urge social media companies "to take action".

The French star's team-mates Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard have both tweeted their support, too, while United defender Harry Maguire has suggested that people should only be able to open social media accounts if they provide proof of identity.

England Women's manager Neville, who played nearly 400 games for United, agrees with Maguire but believes companies like Twitter will only act if they are forced to do so.

Speaking to reporters at St George's Park, the Lionesses boss said the most recent outbreak of overt racism on social media shows the problem is "not going away" despite the positive work being done by anti-discrimination groups such as Kick It Out and the football authorities.

"I think we probably have to take drastic measures now as a football community - I've had it with my players on social media, the Premier League stars and the Championship have had it," said Neville.

"I just wonder whether as a football community we come off social media. Because Twitter won't do anything about it, Instagram won't do anything about it - they send you an email reply saying they'll investigate but nothing happens.

"I've lost total faith in whoever runs these social media departments, so let's send a powerful message: come off social media (for) six months. Let's see the effect it has on these social media companies."

Whether enough broadcasters, clubs, leagues, players and sponsors would avoid social media for so long is debatable but the Professional Footballers' Association did organise a successful boycott in April following a spate of racist incidents targeting Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling.

Neville said his players are regularly subjected to abuse online and he reminded the room of the appalling death and rape threats that were sent to Karen Carney following a Champions League game between Chelsea and Fiorentina last year.

"My players get that kind of abuse all the time, whether it's racist, whether it's sexist, whether it's homophobic, they get that kind of abuse," he said.

"Nothing gets done about it - that's why I've lost faith in social media companies."

Asked if the football industry should collectively sit down and discuss this with social media companies, Neville said: "The FA are doing everything possible, the Premier League have got campaigns and are doing everything possible.

"We're plugging holes here and then there's leaks elsewhere."

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