Arsenal chief says social media abuse is biggest problem in football after Nketiah becomes latest player to receive abuse

Arsenal chief Vinai Venkatesham has said social media abuse is the biggest problem in football today. He said this at the Financial Times Business of Football event via football.london

He called for a united front to ensure that culprits of social media abuse are held accountable for their actions and suitably reprimanded. Footballers suffering from racial and homophobic abuse on social media has become a dangerously regular phenomenon and technology giants have not done nearly enough to tackle this problem.

Gunners striker Eddie Nketiah was abused on Twitter on Thursday after posting a picture of himself in training with the caption ‘Working with a smile!”. 

In recent times, high profile men and women in football have received abuse online. Referee Mike Dean was recently subjected to death threats after he made a controversial decision to show West Ham’s Tomas Soucek a red card. 

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce confirmed that he had received death threats and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta admitted that he had received abusive messages directed at him and his family.

Earlier this week, a study was published which showed that a number of players including Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been subjected to racial and homophobic abuse by Twitter users including some Arsenal season ticket holders.  

It is imperative that social media companies and football organisations come together and ensure stricter rules and consequences for online behaviour. 

Speaking about social media abuse, Venkatesham said:

“This is possibly the biggest problem we have in the game at the minute. Footballers, referees, officials are all human beings with feelings. You can’t underestimate the impact social media abuse can have on individuals.”

Arsenal have support staff who are tasked with helping players who have been abused but Venkatesham said the game had reached a ‘ moment in time’ and corporations must react with swiftness to tackle this problem.

He said:

“We provide support and psychologists but I don’t want to be writing another release on how disgusted we are.”

“This has to be a wake up call. It’s increasingly becoming normalised and in 2021 we can’t be having a conversation about it becoming normalised. I’m not saying it’s simple, easy with a silver bullet to solve it but players and social media companies need to come together.”

“It’s a moment in time and if we don’t make progress I worry about the path we’re heading on. We need the support of social media companies here.”

“We can’t do it alone. How do you explain to a black footballer that if a piece of pirated content goes up, it gets taken down in minutes but that isn’t the same for racist abuse?”

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