It’s been in the works for a while now. With players getting horrific racial abuse online, with referees receiving death threats, and awful people with awful motives being able to run riot in the mentions of people who are just trying to do their jobs.
Now the whole of English football is taking a stand. Together. It’s the players, the clubs, the governing bodies. And now it’s media houses, journalists, fans and more. It’s not often you see so many people so united on one issue.
But what do they want to try and achieve? And will it be able to get anywhere?
Well the EFL have mapped out some ideas as they confirmed that it will run from 3pm on April 30th to 11.59pm on May 3rd, while admitting that ‘clearly, boycott action from football in isolation will not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse’.
They say that ‘it will demonstrate that the game as a collective is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight’, but what are their terms? What do they want Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg to actually do about it?
Firstly, they want the platforms to ‘put stronger preventative and takedown measures in place to stop discriminatory abuse being sent or seen’, secondly they want them to ‘be accountable for safety on platforms and protect users by implementing effective verification’, and thirdly they’re keen to see them to ‘ensure real-life consequences for online discriminatory abuse: ban perpetrators, stop account re-registration and support law enforcement’.
For me, I recently had my mind changed on the ‘verification’ aspect of things with regards to social media. I thought, like many, that disposing of faceless eggs and anonymous profiles with a better verification system should be a priority, but that’s because I don’t have to worry about my sexual preferences being a crime, and I’m not trying to call out the government in a country where I’m not allowed to do so.
Anonymity is incredibly important for lots of people on social media platforms… Not so they can send an abusive tweet, but because their lives genuinely depend on their ability to not be known.
So with that aspect I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m also very convinced of the fact that these companies can do more – alas I’m not running a social media platform, so it’s not really in my skillset to figure out the how they do that.
As a straight, white, male, I’ve got a few ticks in the ‘privilege’ boxes. So I cannot even begin to fathom what it must feel like to log onto your social media after a game and be bombarded with message after message about your race, and I’m certainly not getting messages wishing death on my family because someone didn’t like how I’d done my job that day.
But I’ve taken breaks on Twitter, I’ve stepped back at different times. I’ve done it because it became too much. I’ve been hammered for opinions I’ve had, and ridiculed to the extent where I’ve questioned if I am actually any good at this job that I’ve dedicated my life so far to doing.
So I get that, to some extent at least. It’s why I’ll be going quiet this weekend as well.
I get it on a personal level, but I also wonder how I’m meant to listen to Moses Odubajo talk so incredibly openly and honestly about race and mental health, and then ask with a straight face ‘What more can be done?’ when I next speak to him after I’ve actively chosen not to get involved in a collective cause that might be able to enact a change.
There seems to be an idea for some people that this boycott is a way of trying to persuade racist people not to send racist tweets by not posting a video of their goal. Or that homophobes will stop being homophobic because their club didn’t give them match updates over the weekend.
That’s not what this is about. It’s about try to send a message to the people in charge in a way that they understand. They have the numbers, they know how much engagement Premier League clubs bring to their timeline – so when you get everybody involved then it will most certainly reach their desks.
I’m absolutely sure of the fact that Sheffield Wednesday fans will not have their weekends ruined because little Joe Crann didn’t post a stat about how many passes *insert player here* completed in the game up against Nottingham Forest.
I don’t have an inflated level of self-importance that believes I, myself, can make a difference in what is ultimately a battle that is far bigger than any of us. It’s far bigger than our sport, even. That’s why cricket and rugby are now getting involved.
But Football as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So when the English game gets together, and when Twitter, Facebook and Instagram see the drop in engagement due to blanket silence from some of their biggest creators, maybe they will listen.
But yeah, maybe they won’t. Maybe it won’t make any difference at all, but it can’t hurt to give it a go.
Enough is enough.