FIFA stand by English players social media boycott over racism

Manchester: FIFA is backing a 24-hour social media boycott by professional players in England in a protest against racial abuse and revealed plans for a new global campaign to eradicate discrimination in soccer.

Following a series of high-profile cases in recent weeks, the Professional Footballers’ Association has gathered support from Premier League stars to stay off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from 9 a.m. Friday (0800 GMT) until 9 a.m. Saturday as they push for a crackdown on racist messages.

“Collectively, we are simply not willing to stand by while too little is done by football authorities and social media companies to protect players from this disgusting abuse,” England and Tottenham defender Danny Rose said on Thursday.

FIFA said that it was listening to the concerns of players and supporting their decision to put pressure on social media companies to take stronger action against racism by not posting for a day.

“We applaud the initiative of the English professional football players,” FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”

FIFA is preparing to write to all 211 member associations and the six confederations encouraging them to adopt a three-step procedure which allows a referee to stop play, suspend a game and ultimately abandon the fixture if discriminatory abuse persists.

Now the Zurich-based governing body says it is “preparing a concrete action with worldwide impact that will launch a powerful campaign against discrimination.”

After being targeted with monkey noises while playing for England in Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier last month, Rose said he couldn’t wait for his career to end to escape racism in football.

“Football has a problem with racism,” Rose said. “I don’t want any future players to go through what I’ve been through in my career.”

Unlike Rose, Manchester United defender Chris Smalling does have public accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“Throughout my career I have developed a thick skin against verbal abuse, justifying it as just ‘part of the game’ but the time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels, taking responsibility for protecting the mental health of users regardless of age, race, sex or income,” Smalling said.

“I understand that I am in an extremely privileged position and I am deeply thankful for that but, at the end of the day, we are all human.”

Earlier this week, Manchester United condemned abuse directed at Ashley Young online following the club’s Champions League exit at Barcelona.