FA, Premier League and EFL welcome tougher legislation to tackle online abuse

The introduction of tougher legislation to tackle online abuse in the sport has been welcomed by the Football Association, Premier League, English Football League and Kick It Out.

The Online Safety Bill is scheduled to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Online abuse is a serious issue in football, from the grassroots and throughout the professional game,” the four bodies said in a statement.

“We commend the Government for bringing forward this world-first legislation to create a safer online environment and hold social media companies to account.”

English football has been littered with examples of players being abused on social media in recent years.

England trio Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were among the most high-profile victims when they were subjected to racist abuse after missing penalties in last summer’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.

The FA, Premier League, EFL and anti-discrimination group Kick It Out expressed satisfaction that the Bill has been strengthened in several areas, including hate crime and anonymity, and pledged to work with the Government as the legislation progresses through Parliament.

New anonymity provisions will ensure that ID verification must be offered as an option and users will have greater control over who can contact them and what they see online.

The Government has also accepted the Law Commission’s recommendations to reform communications offences to include threatening and harassing behaviour online more clearly.

Italy v England – UEFA Euro 2020 Final – Wembley Stadium
Marcus Rashford was among the England players racially abused after missing a penalty in last summer’s Euro 2020 final (Nick Potts/PA)

The statement added: “This legislation is a promising first step towards creating a new era of accountability online.

“We would like to offer our support to the Government, parliamentarians, and Ofcom on the ongoing task of developing the secondary legislation and safety guidelines.

“We are pleased that the Government recognises the importance of transparency and would urge Ministers to ensure that the Bill sets out minimum levels and categories of information that will need to be provided each year as part of the transparency reporting requirements; and that Ofcom has the ability to share reporting information.

“Although hate and discrimination are not currently the subject of a specific code of practice, we are keen to work closely with the Government and Ofcom on this very important issue.

“We want to ensure that experiences and voices of victims of online abuse provide critical insight and influence the creation of Ofcom’s guidelines.

“We would like to thank the Government for engaging with English football during the drafting of this important piece of legislation, and we look forward to working with them closely as the Bill progresses through Parliament over the coming months.”