Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich promises extra funds to fight discrimination

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has written to his players promising to direct funding to efforts to stamp out discrimination after a spate of incidents of online abuse over the last week.

Blues defender Reece James shared vile messages he had been sent, while Manchester United trio Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe were also targeted by racist abuse along with West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers.

Abramovich is understood to have written to each member of the Chelsea men’s squad, including James, to express how “appalled” he was by the abuse and his renewed desire to fight it.

Chelsea defender Reece James has received vile abuse online
Chelsea defender Reece James has received vile abuse online

“I am appalled by the racist abuse targeted at Reece on social media,” the Russian said.

“Racism has no place in our club nor in our society. Our club is committed to fighting racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.

“We cannot allow this to continue unchecked. I have therefore directed the board to further increase the club’s efforts in this area and I will personally direct more funds towards this important work.”

He said he wanted Chelsea to “do more to challenge discrimination at our club, in our communities and in the world around us”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Government’s Online Harms Bill will “crack down on online abuse” and tweeted: “Thank you so much to all the players who have called out the racial abuse they’ve received online.

“Their experiences will be at the top of my mind as we take this Bill through parliament.”

The bill contains provisions to fine social media companies a proportion of their turnover if they fail to prevent and tackle online abuse.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has repeated the calls for social media platforms get a grip.

“I don’t this is just a matter of footballers or famous people,” the United said.

“Of course that gets highlighted. In a sense, it’s good that we talk about it, highlight it again, but it’s unacceptable behaviour.

“It happens all across the society and of course we work with the authorities and it has to be stopped.

“This way of discrimination on social media, we can’t do a lot can we?

“So we have to work with the platforms and they’ve got to be stronger to make sure that we stop this.”

The abuse of Rashford prompted an investigation from Greater Manchester Police and places further scrutiny on social media platforms as the UK Government plans to introduce new laws on online abuse in 2021.

Racist abuse – whether on the pitch, in the stands, or on social media – is despicable and it must stop now. (1/3)

— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) January 31, 2021

The Duke of Cambridge has branded the racist abuse directed at footballers “despicable” and said it “must stop now”.

He tweeted: “Racist abuse – whether on the pitch, in the stands, or on social media – is despicable and it must stop now.

“We all have a responsibility to create an environment where such abuse is not tolerated, and those who choose to spread hate and division are held accountable for their actions. That responsibility extends to the platforms where so much of this activity now takes place.

“I commend all those players, supporters, clubs and organisations who continue to call out and condemn this abuse in the strongest terms.”