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Home   /   Why has online abuse become a different kind of pandemic?

Long read: In this piece I analyse why online abuse towards football players has alarmingly escalated. This piece was finished before the social media boycott by the English footballing bodies and elite football clubs.

Recently the abuse that footballers have been receiving on social media has escalated at an alarming rate. Viv Anderson, England’s first black international player, says that racist abuse towards players on social media is currently worse than anything he faced during his playing days.[i] Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James have all received racist abuse in recent times, and that is just at one club. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the presence of internet trolls substantiates, so does the number of people taking a stand.  

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The English football bodies consisting of: The Premier League, FA EFL, WSL, Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, and Kick It Out came together to demand more brutal action on these trolls in an open letter to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Instagram announced that they would be closing social media accounts found guilty of racist abuse. In contrast, Twitter refused to end the practice of allowing people to post from anonymous accounts.

Two years ago, the PFA announced the #Enough campaign, which was an anti-racism campaigned with England stars such as Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling at the forefront of it. People were encouraged to plaster the campaign over their social media accounts to “make a stand against racism”, so why does there never seem to be any progress? In this piece, Overtime Online investigates why online abuse has become so normalised and what we can do to kick it out.

I wanted to investigate this topic because on March 11, following Arsenal’s 3-1 triumph in the first leg of their Europa League tie against Olympiakos, I uploaded a tweet stating that Gunners full-back Hector Bellerin had “played well tonight”. Just for some context, he was the fifth highest-rated player on the pitch, according to Whoscored[ii]. He could also consider himself unlucky to leave Greece without an assist to his name as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang crashed a header against the crossbar.

Despite my tweet praising the player, the overwhelming response was that of abuse towards both Bellerin and I. One tweet read: “your standards are as poor as our midfield mistakes”, whilst another user alerted me to Bellerin’s apparent inability to cross, dribble, defend, pass or shoot. The latter was not best pleased when I informed him that the Spaniard had completed twice as many dribbles as anyone else on the night, to which I received the response: “Instead of hiding behind stats, how about you watch the game with your own pair of eyes?”. Despite Arsenal comfortably winning one of their biggest games of the season, some so-called fans still reacted by being abusive and hostile.

Arsenal fans, in general, have a reasonably lousy rap, partially due to a YouTube channel called AFTV, formerly known as Arsenal Fan TV. It was created in 2012 and is “a place where the fan’s uncensored opinion can be heard before, during and after the final whistle blows.”[iii] Unfortunately, due to Arsenal’s decline from Invincibles to Invisibles at times, the channel has often become shrouded with negativity.

The channel has existed through what has been the club’s roughest patch in its recent history. Legendary manager Arsene Wenger left the club in 2018 following a slow decline of results which saw the club slip out of Champions League qualification for the first time during his tenure in 2017. During the latter years, Arsenal fans endured some dire performances from their side. They were taught a footballing lesson as Bayern Munich schooled them 10-2 in The Champions League. In Wenger’s millennial game in charge of the club a few years previous, the side were humiliated 6-0 by local rivals, Chelsea. As James McNicholas wrote for the Athletic: “Nobody does crisis quite like Arsenal, and nobody does rage quite like AFTV.”[iv]

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There have been many memorable outbursts of the rage that James mentioned on the channel. Channel regular DT stated before that he wanted to punch Wenger in the face following a defeat a few years ago. Rants such as that are why the channel causes so much controversy and is why Arsenal distanced themselves from it.

The fans have not all taken a shine to the channel, and they made that blatantly clear at Selhurst Park in January 2020. Chants of “Arsenal Fan TV – get out of our club!” rang around the away end, resulting in the channel host, Robbie Lyle, being escorted away from the ground by police amid safety concerns. 

Luke Henry, 22, has appeared on AFTV on multiple occasions, and he explained to Overtime Online that he witnessed the aggressive behaviour directed their way first-hand. “I went to a game with someone from AFTV, I won’t name names, but he’s on it regularly; I was sat next to him and heard fans chant AFTV get out of our club. I asked him, ‘how do you deal with it?’ and he said he just blocks it out.”[v]

When asked if he believes the channel benefits from Arsenal playing poorly, Luke said: “I think yes, but that’s the way journalism works. When you watch the news, for example, how many times do you watch it and they start with a really happy story, they don’t. We as people are more glued to watching controversial news and sad stories, something that’s hard-hitting.”

Luke is not wrong, and there have been various researches that prove his point. Researchers Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka experimented to figure out why disaster stories often headline newspapers. Participants were asked to select stories about politics from a news website so that a camera could track their eye movements. Results showed that they often chose negative stories with familiar topics, including corruption, setbacks and hypocrisy; this is despite the majority of participants claiming they prefer positive news.”[vi]

5 of the top 8 most-watched videos on AFTV’s YouTube channel are rants following humiliating defeats for the Gunners, their highest viewed video having received just under 4 million views for a passionate rant, following a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool 3 years ago. Negative news sells, and AFTV simply supplies the demand which appeases fans subconscious.

What is most striking about the recent upscale of abuse is how normalised it has become. At the time of writing, Jude Bellingham, who is just 17 years of age, has been in the news due to being subjected to racist abuse. The day after, Manchester United midfielder, Fred, was also subjected to racial abuse following a mistake in United’s FA Cup defeat at Leicester. This all during the ongoing “Black Lives Matter” campaign, which has had players taking the knee before matches for nearly a year.

According to the BLM website: “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black Lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”[vii]

The Black Lives Matter campaign was thrust into the limelight following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Four police officers arrived at a grocery store in Minneapolis after it was alleged that Floyd had tried to pay using a counterfeit $20 bill. Derek Chauvin was one of the four officers who arrived on the scene, and he was the one who killed Floyd in the street. Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly 8 minutes in order to restrain him, despite security camera footage from a nearby business showing that Floyd did not resist the arrest. Not only that, but as Floyd lay helpless on the ground, two other officers knelt on his back as he pleaded with the officer stating: “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times.[viii]

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The reaction to Floyd’s death triggered a series of police brutality protests that stretched worldwide. Protests began in Minneapolis before stretching across the U.S, with solidarity protests occurring in Asia, Europe and Oceania. Chauvin was subsequently found guilty for second and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

Despite this being the first time many people will have heard about Black Lives Matter, the story goes back to 2012 and a young man named Trayvon Martin. At just 17 years of age, he was fatally shot and killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, 28, the neighbourhood watch coordinator of his community. Martin was unarmed, and despite Zimmerman claiming he acted in self-defence, there was no evidence to support this statement.

Like Floyd, protests broke out around the U.S, and a petition for Zimmerman’s arrest acquired over 2 million signatures. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of his crimes, and that was the trigger for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi to create the Black Lives Matter movement-building project. 

The manner in which George Floyd lost his life prompted football to support the movement across the board. Following the first national lockdown in England, the spotlight was firmly on “project restart”, which bought about the return of Premier League football. In the first round of returning fixtures, players’ names that usually ark their upper back read “black lives matter”. Not only that, but advertising hoardings around stadiums also hammered home the message as well as the entire league, players and coaching staff alike, taking a knee pre-match.

Richard Masters, Premier League CEO, explained to Sky Sports how the players drove the decision. “It’s a big statement; it was player-led. We spent a lot of time talking to players. It was an emotional time during the pandemic.”

“Anti-discrimination is something we are really committed to. Last week we announced our ‘No Room for Racism’ action plan. Unfortunately, we have had to take on social media companies with regards to online abuse.”[ix]

Taking a knee has become quite controversial in the world of football. Some people appreciate the gesture of solidarity, whilst some believe football should not become riddled with politics. That’s easier said than done.

QPR stopped taking a knee back in December with the Director of Football, Les Ferdinand saying: “The message has been lost. It is now not dissimilar to a fancy hashtag or a nice pin badge.” Ivan Toney, Brentford’s record-breaking striker, said that his teammates will follow suit as the continuance of the gesture is allowing “people at the top” to rest on the subject.”[x]

Despite these two cases hitting the news, it did not cause as much of a splash as when Crystal Palace star, Wilfried Zaha, proclaimed that he too would stop taking a knee.

He said: “I’ve said before that I feel like taking the knee is degrading and stuff because growing up, my parents just let me know that I should be proud to be black no matter what, and I feel like we should just stand tall.”

“I’m not going to take the knee; I’m not going to wear Black Lives Matter on the back of my shirt because it feels like it’s a target.” 

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Looking at the data makes it hard to disagree. During the last six weeks of the 2019-20 season, during Project Restart, a joint PFA and signify study of online content identified more than 3,000 abusive messages aimed at Premier League players, 56% of which were racist.[xi] This was during a period in which the Black Lives Matter campaign was as prominent in the news and online as it has ever been.

“Social media is a big thing. It can be devastating.”[xii] This is a quote from Rob Blackburne, the host of The Footballers Mindset podcast. Social media can become a cesspool of negativity for players, with the volume of abusive messages coming in challenging to avoid.

According to Mind, 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, with the most common being anxiety and depression.[xiii] Footballers are known for living luxurious lives, but even they are not immune to how dark a place one’s mind can become.

In 2011 the footballing world mourned the loss of Gary Speed, a man with a footballing CV that etches him into English football history. He finished his career having made almost 850 appearances in English football and is 6th in the Premier League’s all-time appearance list with 535.

After a glittering playing career, he also managed the nation he represented 85 times, Wales. Just under a month after his death, the final FIFA rankings of 2011 dubbed Wales as the “best movers” of the year, reflecting the positive work that Speed carried out in his time there.

Just the day before Speed took his own life, November 26, 2011; he appeared on BBC One’s Football Focus as a guest. Host Dan Walker said: “I spent four hours with Gary Speed on Saturday. He was our guest on football focus and was in great form. I’ve met and interviewed him on many occasions. I always found him to be kind, funny, intelligent and insightful.”[xiv]

It just goes to show how you never know what is going on in a persons’ mind, and this was ten years ago now, in a time where social media existed but was nowhere near as influential. 

More is being done to aid mental health in football than when Speed was alive, with the PFA announcing that 643 players turned to their therapy programme in 2019, which is a rise of nearly 50% on the year previous.[xv] A worryingly high number yet one that is encouraging because more players are speaking up and are willing to be heard.

Michael Bennett, head of welfare for the PFA, acknowledged that an increase in awareness was partially responsible for these rising numbers and touched on the impact social media can have on players.

He said: “I’ve spoken to players who’ve deleted their accounts. That’s just because of the barrage they get.”

“You think about it, some of these players have 50,60,100,000 followers, and if you’re getting negative feedback from a large proportion of those individuals, it’s going to affect you.” 

One of the highest-profile people to have deleted their account recently is Premier League legend Thierry Henry. Henry boasted millions of followers across all of his social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

He has done so in protest to the increasing levels of discrimination, bullying and racism on the platforms. He vows only to return when social media is no longer “used as a weapon” for such verbal abuse.

He said: “But I talk, we talk, I talk, we talk, I talk, we talk. What was it? How did you feel? Did you sleep well that night? Did you wake up well? I talk, we talk, I talk, we talk – I’ve had enough of talking.”[xvi]

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He also stated that he believes the increase in online abuse may partially be due to there being no fans in the stadium, as racism has simply moved from the terraces to the internet.

Uswitch.com researched children who have been victims of cyberbullying during the lockdown, and their findings support Henry’s claim. They say that over a quarter of children (27%) stated that cyberbullying has increased during lockdown periods, with 56% of those suffering name-calling.[xvii]

Despite Henry’s claim varying in specificity, the nature of what he is saying remains the same. Lockdown has seen a rise in cyberbullying amongst children, which is a similar trend that supports Henry’s theory.

The report by Uwitch also states that children spend approximately 30 hours a week online, on average, yet more than half of those hours, 17, are entirely unsupervised. 

These young children blame social media companies, with 55% saying that social media is the cyberbullying hotspot. They say they are most likely to be bullied on image and video-sharing sites. 

I spoke with Celina Farey, a certified mental performance consultant, and she told me the impact that online abuse can have on a person.

She said: “I haven’t worked with any elite footballers, but I have worked with young players and children, and despite their innocence, their mental health can be very fragile. I have worked with people fighting disabilities and are returning from injuries, and it takes its toll. The mind is an incredible yet sensitive creation, and I have seen the impact that words can have on a person – it can be devastating.”[xviii]

It is not just male players who are subjected to such vitriol online, as being a woman in football opens the doors to a broader range of abusive content.

Jessica Watkins, 21, is a young female footballer with aspirations of becoming a professional footballer. Previously at Chelsea academy, she harbours dreams of hitting the big leagues; however, she has been subject to online abuse because of her sex. 

Jess has acquired over 27,000 followers on the popular social media site TikTok, where she uploads regular footballing content, whether this is videos of her playing or talking about football. Jess told Overtime that she had received all of the stereotypical gender-specific insults, often lobbied at female players by internet trolls.

She said: “I’ve had, get back to the kitchen, girls are shit at football, what’s that washing machine doing on the pitch and girls can’t play football, stick to netball.”[xix]

Men’s mental health has recently been at the forefront of attention, and it is easy to understand why. In 2019 there were 5,691 suicides registered in England and Wales, with 4,303 of those being men.[xx]

The neglect of men’s mental health has been going on for years; however, despite it now receiving more much-required attention, women still fight that battle too.

Brooke Cochrane, captain of Newcastle United’s women’s side, is a Be A Game Changer ambassador with the Newcastle United Foundation, and she spoke out on the issue.

She said: “It’s really important for women to stand up and be counted too. Obviously, there’s a big emphasis on men and male fans to speak about their mental health because men are typically more at risk of suicide. However, that doesn’t mean that women can’t stand up and say, ‘actually I’ve also struggled’, and this is where I’m at. I think it’s really important for everyone to know women, men, children – everyone is counted.”[xxi]

Jess spoke to me about her challenges and how she contemplated removing her content due to her abuse.

“Early on, I seriously struggled when I made a football opinions video, and it was just flooded with sexist comments as it got loads of views. I was just so shocked at how much hate and sexist comments I was receiving. It upset me, and I thought about deleting the video and debated whether to stop posting entirely.”

“It’s horrible to receive negative comments about something you are so passionate about; however, it has opened up my eyes to see that the world is so much more sexist than I thought – especially in the football industry.”

Social media offers people, such as Jess, a fantastic opportunity to be heard and seen worldwide in a way that would not have been possible for ordinary folk even as little as two decades ago.

Jess’ most popular video has received over 322,000 views, and her large following may also provide her with the opportunity to financially benefit from creating content. Nevertheless, the abuse made her contemplate closing her account for good.

More needs to be done, but what can be? Social media companies already have specific tools to help filter out online abuse; however, there are still flaws.

Instagram and Facebook say: “We know that cyberbullying can get in the way and create negative experiences. That’s why at Instagram and Facebook, we’re committed to leading the fight against cyberbullying.”[xxii]

“We’re doing this in two main ways. First, by using technology to prevent people from experiencing and seeing bullying. For example, people can turn on a setting that uses artificial intelligence technology to automatically filter and hide bullying comments intended to harass or upset people.”

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The problem with this method is that people can still see that something has been said despite hiding the comments. The comment may also just include some colourful language, which despite being occasionally offensive, is not always meant in a harmful way. People might choose to check the hidden comments, unaware of the contents of the message behind it as someone may have just said the F word, for instance. Unfortunately, trolls are not always stopped by this measure either, and they get creative with spelling words. This can be using the number 4 instead of the letter A, and multiple of these types of substitution will not always see comments flagged up. 

They then go on to say: “Second, we’re working to encourage positive behaviour and interactions by giving people tools to customise their experience of Facebook and Instagram. Restrict is one tool designed to empower you to discreetly protect your account whilst keeping an eye on a bully.”

One issue with this is that by the time a user may know who to “restrict”, the abuse has already been acknowledged. Restricting an account may prevent future abuse from that one person; however, the first message that has resulted in them being restricted has already been read – like an extinguished fire, the damage may already be severe. Also, professional footballers cannot restrict every abusive message that comes through, as for some who receive the worst of it would be too time-consuming. This method might work with a child being bullied by an individual, however, not with a celebrity who receives verbal abuse from a substantial number of accounts.

On Facebook and Instagram, you can alter your settings to prevent accounts to which the user has not given consent via following from directly messaging you. This does give significant control over your direct messages and should eradicate a large amount of abuse someone might receive via direct message. If a footballer, for instance, were only to follow people that they know and trust, it would eradicate abusive direct messages.

Twitter tried to downplay the recent online abuse by stating: “violative tweets represent approximately 0.05% of the overall football conversation on Twitter, and they absolutely do not reflect the vast majority of fans, players and everyone involved in the game who engage in positive and vibrant discussions about football on Twitter every day.”[xxiii]

Their initial approach to online abuse was to mute block and report. Twitter admit that they have: “gone from being reliant on people reporting these issues some years ago.” Muting an account will remove all of their activity from the user’s timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account, effectively doing so anonymously. To block an account would unauthorise it from contacting you and viewing your profile whilst reporting an account simply alerts Twitter of said account.

These prevention methods have been around for years, and Twitter states they have worked with people in football to improve these simple yet slightly outdated methods.

One problem with social media is that not everyone knows how to access these anti-bullying tools. Twitter say they have implemented: “the delivery of trainings with football clubs and police, including dedicated football officers, on how to report abusive accounts and how to use Twitter effectively.” This is an essential step in ensuring that footballers are aware of their control in minimising abusive interactions.

As previously mentioned, the PFA ran an anti-racism campaign called #Enough. Twitter is an excellent platform for these campaigns to be pushed around effectively, with professional footballers having enormous followings on the site. Twitter also said that they actively support various other campaigns such as The Premier League and EFL’s anti-racism campaign, #StandUpToHate, #Rainbowlaces and the Kick It Out take a stand campaign. I question the impact that these campaigns have considering the rising numbers of abuse; however, their intentions are pure, and it is still a message that should be wholeheartedly spread.

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A new conversation setting launched on Twitter gives users the power to restrict other accounts tweeting them. The setting, when turned on, means that only accounts that said user has followed have the power to reply to their tweets, meaning that if Lionel Messi, for example, only followed Cristiano Ronaldo, only Ronaldo would be able to respond to Messi’s tweets. Combining this with the function that restricts direct messages in a similar method is an effective way to minimise abuse.

One problem with these tools would be that the overwhelming majority of football fans who want to show their love and support for their heroes would not be able to do so. Marcus Rashford uploaded a picture to his Twitter very recently, during the European Super League debacle, which read: “Football is nothing without fans. Sir Matt Busby”[xxiv]. During the same period, many footballers were echoing a similar message and having to limit their social media accounts, effectively minimising all fan interaction, is not something that many will feel comfortable doing.

Footballers would rather instead the abuse be stopped at source or for at least the cowards responsible to be held accountable for their actions. One problem is that much abuse hurled towards footballers is done so by pseudonym accounts – accounts where the name used, is fictitious.

One of the compelling arguments to reduce online abuse is that accounts must be verified by a government ID, meaning that were an account to be found guilty of online abuse, that person can be easily identified and held to account. Twitter take quite a strong stance on why having the option of pseudonymity is essential in society.

“We believe everyone has the right to share their voice without requiring a government ID to do so. Our approach in this space has been developed in consultation with leading NGOs – while pseudonymity has been a vital tool for speaking out in oppressive regimes, it is no less critical in democratic societies.”

 “Pseudonymity may be used to explore your identity, to find support as victims of crimes, or to highlight issues faced by vulnerable communities. Indeed, many of the first voices to speak out on social wrongdoings have done so behind some degree of pseudonymity.”

Not every individual who uses Twitter may have access to a government ID, effectively meaning they would be unable to access the site. According to the site, these people are: “exactly those of who we strive to give a voice to on Twitter”, so it seems very unlikely that they would ever alter the stance on the subject.

There are positives of pseudonymity; however, it begs the question, do they outweigh the negatives? Considering the negatives consist of relentless online abuse, essentially racist, it is a conversation worth having.

According to an online abuse and bullying prevention guide on the government website, if someone was to be found guilty of cyberbullying, they could be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison and may incur a fine of £5000. If the messages are racial or regarding religion, the prison sentence can increase to two years.

A 2-year prison sentence is an adequate punishment if properly policed; however, it is not often the case, partially due to pseudonymity. In some cases, the perpetrator has been brought to justice, but the general feeling is that they often go unpunished.

There have been examples of fans who have served time behind bars. George Reynolds was jailed for eight weeks following a barrage of racist slurs towards Tottenham Hotspur players when they travelled to play Brighton and Hove Albion.

Reynolds called black Spurs players “monkey boys” and stated “Koreans eat dogs” in reference to Son Heung-Min’s home country[xxv]. Despite being reported and urged to stop, he continued making racist remarks and was eventually ejected from the American Express Community Stadium and banned for life. 

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Football liaison officer for the police, PC Darren Balkham, said: “The language used by this individual was completely unacceptable. There is no place for it in society, whether that be in a football stadium, in public or anywhere else for that matter.”

“Reynolds claimed he did not remember what he said due to the amount of alcohol he had consumed before the game, and he only acknowledged his actions in a police interview after being informed of the numerous reports made against him by other fans.”

It is encouraging that those within the hearing range of Reynolds stepped up to ensure he received his punishment, which is not so easy to do with anonymous online abuse. 

Hopefully, as we continue our journey out of lockdown and back to normality, the increase in online abuse will flatten out upon fans return to stadiums starting on May 17. As people spend less time online and re-engage with life, hopefully, we can be kinder to people and more grateful for the things we have.

Someone receiving discriminatory abuse will never be okay, regardless of the reason. We will likely never fully eradicate it, but we must educate the uneducated and punish those who are guilty. We must do more.


[i] Fricker, M. and Hennessy, P., 2021. Viv Anderson says racist abuse now is worse than anything he ever faced. [online] nottinghampost.com. Available at: <https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/viv-anderson-brian-clough-forest-4999913> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[ii] Whoscored.com. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1531476/LiveStatistics/Europe-Europa-League-2020-2021-Olympiacos-Arsenal> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[iii] Youtube.com. n.d. AFTV. [online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/c/AFTVmedia/about> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[iv] McNicholas, J., 2020. AFTV: Giving fans a voice or feeding off failure?. [online] The Athletic. Available at: <https://theathletic.co.uk/1538758/2020/01/17/aftv-giving-fans-a-voice-or-feeding-off-failure/?redirected=1> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[v] Henry, L. (2021). Interviewed by Rhys Evans via videochat, March 15. 

[vi] Stafford, T., 2014. Psychology: Why bad news dominates the headlines. [online] Bbc.com. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140728-why-is-all-the-news-bad> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[vii] Blacklivesmatter.com. n.d. [online] Available at: <https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[viii] Singh, M., 2020. George Floyd told officers ‘I can’t breathe’ more than 20 times, transcripts show. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/08/george-floyd-police-killing-transcript-i-cant-breathe> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[ix] McVitie, P., 2020. Players will continue to take the knee until the end of the season, says Premier League chief Masters | Goal.com. [online] Goal.com. Available at: <https://www.goal.com/en-gb/news/players-will-continue-to-take-the-knee-until-the-end-of-the/6q03d0e58c6g1typsfiqzhlnl#:~:text=Premier%20League%20CEO%20Richard%20Masters,Floyd%20in%20the%20United%20States.> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[x] Bbc.co.uk. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56126928> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xi] Bbc.co.uk. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56084622> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xii] Bate, A., 2020. Football’s mental health epidemic: ‘Big problem nobody is talking about’. [online] Sky Sports. Available at: <https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/12122567/footballs-mental-health-epidemic-big-problem-nobody-is-talking-about> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xiii] Mind.org.uk. n.d. How common are mental health problems?. [online] Available at: <https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xiv] Walker, D., 2011. BBC – Dan Walker: Gary Speed leaves a huge hole in football. [online] Bbc.co.uk. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/danwalker/2011/11/gary_speed_leaves_a_huge_whole.html> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xv] Bacp.co.uk. 2020. Record numbers of footballers accessing PFA counselling service. [online] Available at: <https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2020/20-february-record-numbers-of-footballers-accessing-pfa-counselling-service/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xvi] Sky Sports. 2021. Thierry Henry: Former Arsenal striker has ‘had enough’ of discussing racism after coming off social media. [online] Available at: <https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/12261417/thierry-henry-former-arsenal-striker-has-had-enough-of-discussing-racism-after-coming-off-social-media> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xvii] FE News. 2021. Children report spike in cyberbullying during lockdown with more time spent unsupervised online – research from Uswitch. [online] Available at: <https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/63335-children-report-spike-in-cyberbullying-during-lockdown-with-more-time-spent-unsupervised-online-research-from-uswitch> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xviii] Farey, C. (2021). Interviewed by Rhys Evans via videochat, April 12.

[xix] Watkins, J (2021). Interviewed by Rhys Evans via text, March 30

[xx] Ons.gov.uk. 2020. Suicides in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2019registrations> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xxi] Newcastle United Football Club. 2021. Newcastle United Women captain Brooke Cochrane shares mental health journey to empower all genders in football community this International Women’s Day. [online] Available at: <https://www.nufc.co.uk/news/latest-news/newcastle-united-women-captain-brooke-cochrane-shares-mental-health-journey-to-empower-all-genders-in-football-community-this-international-womens-day/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xxii] Unicef.org. n.d. Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it. [online] Available at: <https://www.unicef.org/end-violence/how-to-stop-cyberbullying#6> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xxiii] Blog.twitter.com. 2021. No room for racist behaviour on Twitter. [online] Available at: <https://blog.twitter.com/en_gb/topics/company/2020/no-room-for-racist-behaviour-on-twitter-.html> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xxiv] Terry, D., 2021. Rashford uploads ‘football is nothing without fans’ post after Man Utd join ESL. [online] The Sun. Available at: <https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/14709259/rashford-man-utd-european-super-league/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

[xxv] Barlow, A., 2020. ‘We don’t want to witness this ever again’- Albion chief speaks out as racist fan jailed. [online] The Argus. Available at: <https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/18204388.football-racism-brighton-hove-albion-fans-jail-sentence/> [Accessed 2 May 2021].

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