Government response to abuse of England players 'does not feel genuine', says Sheffield football group

A Government pledge to tackle online racial abuse in football “does not feel genuine”, a Sheffield anti-racism youth group has said.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:16 pm
Simon Hyacinth, co CEO of Football Unites Racism Divides (FURD)
Simon Hyacinth, co CEO of Football Unites Racism Divides (FURD)

Boris Johnson announced yesterday a plan to expands laws so football banning orders can be brought down on online abusers.

The Prime Minister said in a statement he was “appalled at the abhorrent abuse” of black England players before reiterating the Government’s hotly-debated draft Online Safety Bill.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But Simon Hyacinth, co-CEO of Sheffield’s Football Unites, Racism Divides youth group, said that while the action was “something” it did not feel “genuine” following the week of criticism the Government has faced.

"It think it’s only a response to the amount of criticism they’ve had since the whole thing erupted,” said Simon. “It’s a step but things need to be a lot stronger.

"Does it seem genuine to me? No. Bans and laws are all well and good but there’s much deeper issues and the Government needs to change it’s own narrative on the way it’s deals and challenges racism.

“A lot of what plays out in football after games and online stems from deeper issues, like racist terms about immigrants and migrants and economic migrants and what they say when they want votes.”

Football Unites, Racism Divides is a Sheffield-based youth group that uses the beautiful game to bring communities together and break down barriers.

Earlier this week, Simon told The Star he felt the Government and social media companies had been “slow” to tackle racism in England or address how it has taken root in footballing communities.

He also felt any condemnation from Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel felt “hollow” after both publicly refused to support players who ‘take the knee’ before matches – a symbol of protest against racism.

Simon said: “I think there’s quite a lot of anger in the communities FURD deals with. Nobody was surprised after three black players missed penalties they they would get large amounts of racial abuse.

"For more than six weeks these players had the nation’s support. It shows how quickly you can go from being a national hero to being a villain.”