The shocking extent of racial abuse that footballers experience on social media has been highlighted in a new football documentary.
Episode 3 of Dream Team‘s mini-documentary series ‘Football is Everything‘ focuses on whether the issue of racism ever left the British game, and features Leyton Orient club captain Jobi McAnuff, ex-footballer Marvin Sordell, and Kick It Out’s Head of Development Troy Townsend in discussing the current state of the game.
All three players experienced racism in their playing days and have since witnessed the problem evolve onto social media and spiral out of control.
McAnuff, who played 38 times for Reading in the Premier League, believes social media has created a “safety net” for anonymous figures to spread hate without punishment.
He said: “It’s (social media) not policed at all. People feel safe, they feel like they can say whatever they want and there’s not going to be any consequence to what they are saying. It’s probably up there with the worst feeling you can experience.
“I think a large part of, not just racism, but a lot of discrimination is ignorance and lack of education. We learn about; Egypt, we learn about the great fire of London, Vikings, Romans, but I don’t remember ever doing a piece on slavery, for example. That’s something that we should be taught. Something that we should know about.
“You’re never gonna, ever, and I believe unfortunately, eradicate it completely.”
Kick It Out’s Head of Development Troy Townsend claims that football is rendered powerless when it comes to pressuring social media companies to clamp down on racism on their platforms.
He said: “I now believe that there’s nothing that we can do about social media, football cannot influence what the social media companies do.
“The punishments need to show the industry and show fans that we’re not accepting this anymore.”
Marvin Sordell represented England at both U20 and U21 levels as well as Team GB at the 2012 Olympics before retiring from football in 2019.
He said: “I was tired of being suppressed really, in my opinions and thoughts and it is a very suppressing industry, it’s very tiring being told ‘It’s fine to be abused because of what you do’ in any other line of work, it’s not fine.”
Sordell experienced racism while playing for the Three Lions against Serbia in 2012 and believes that social media companies won’t take the problem seriously until it starts to affect their revenue.
He said: “You can block the person, they’ll just make a new account. It doesn’t affect the pockets of the social media platforms.
“Football allows it because it gives a safety net. I mean, what is the punishment in everyday life? It has to reflect society.
“I’ve said it many times, if racism affected money, we wouldn’t have it in the game. It’s as simple as that.
“If the Champions League final was played and someone got racially abused and then the players said, ‘no, we’re not playing’ walked off the pitch 15 minutes into a Champions League final, that would cause absolute mayhem for every single sponsor of that game.
“If something like that happened, the sponsors would make sure that football made sure that never ever happened again.”