Prince William joins social media sports boycott to tackle abuse

London (AFP) –


Britain's Prince William has joined a boycott of social media channels launched on Friday by football clubs, players and sporting bodies aimed at tackling online abuse.

A number of football organisations including the English Football Association and Premier League revealed they would not post on their platforms this weekend and the campaign has snowballed.

European football's governing body UEFA is also observing the blackout, which will last from 1400 GMT on Friday until 2259 GMT on Monday.

In a statement released before the boycott began, the Premier League said social media companies must do more to stamp out online abuse.

A number of high-profile players including Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Chelsea full-back Reece James have been racially abused in recent months.

"The Premier League and our clubs stand alongside football in staging this boycott to highlight the urgent need for social media companies to do more in eliminating racial hatred," said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

Prince William, who is president of the English Football Association, threw his weight behind the campaign.

"As President of the FA I join the entire football community in the social media boycott this weekend," he tweeted.

In January William hit out at racist abuse in football, describing it as "despicable" and saying it must stop after several black players were targeted online.

A number of players posted statements shortly before the protest began on Friday, while football clubs changed their Twitter logos to show their support for the campaign.

- Escalating abuse -

Earlier, Manchester United said their own analysis had shown that online abuse aimed at their players had increased by 350 percent since 2019.

"The analysis has found that since September 2019, there has been a 350 percent increase in abuse directed towards the club's players," United said in a statement.

"By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue," said United's group managing director Richard Arnold.

The Premier League club also said they had banned six fans alleged to have abused Tottenham's South Korean forward Son Heung-min on social media.

Chelsea said they had banned a supporter for posting anti-Semitic messages online.

"Following the conclusion of court proceedings in February, the club conducted our own investigation into the matter and has taken the decision to ban the individual from Chelsea FC for a period of 10 years," said a statement from the club.

A wide range of sporting organisations including England Rugby, British Cycling, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the International Tennis Federation are supporting the blackout.

Formula One is not taking part but world champion Lewis Hamilton said he was ready to join the boycott on the weekend of the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Wolverhampton boss Nuno Espirito Santo believes it will need to be repeated in the push for change.

"Not everyone on social media uses it badly, you have to balance, and we can't compromise our freedom but at the moment I think it's a good measure," he said.

"Will we have to repeat it again? Probably so, it takes time for people to understand the right message."