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Tackling discrimination in football: are existing regulations sufficient to combat social media abuse?

Tackling discrimination in football: are existing regulations sufficient to combat social media abuse?
Wednesday, 21 April 2021 By Jermaine Malcolm

Whilst revenue, transfers and sponsorship in football fluctuate in the midst of a postponed season, statistics show a striking increase in discrimination across sports and, in particular, football.

In the absence of football matches being attended, players such as Marcus Rashford, Tyrone Mings, Antony Martial, Lauren James and many more[1] have faced increased discrimination and abuse on social media. A young footballer, Linton Harris, was quoted as saying, “I’m done with football all together”[2] after being racially abused and feeling there was no recourse.

More recently Mike Dean, an FA Referee, and his family received death threats[3] online after sending off Southampton defender Jan Bednarek and West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek.  A number of club managers have shared experiences of a similar nature. 

Kick It Out, England’s football equality and inclusion organisation, a charitable body established in 1997,[4] gather annual statistics on discrimination around football matches and social media. The charity reported a 42% increase in discrimination with a 53% increase in racially motivated incidents in the season of 2019/20[5] and has been inundated with calls for more to be done to tackle discrimination in one of the world’s most followed sports.

Accordingly, this article examines:

  • U.K. legislation governing discrimination and abuse;
  • Football's rules and regulations on discrimination:
    • relating to players and clubs;
    • relating to fans;
  • High profile examples of discrimination;
  • The problems specific to social media; and
  • Whether the laws are sufficient and what more can be done to tackle the issues?

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Jermaine Malcolm

Jermaine Malcolm

Jermaine is a sports lawyer at Blaser Mills Law and specialises in football, acting for high profile professional players, agents and football clubs.

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