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It's time to rid the beautiful game of online abuse

Kick It Out first started receiving reports of social media discrimination relating to football in 2012/13.

Today at Kick It Out we’re launching a social media campaign called ‘Klick It Out’ – looking to highlight the issue of social media discrimination within football.

Football has moved forward in so many ways over the last 25 years or so. Whilst prejudice and discrimination is alive in society sadly it will continue in football, but improvements have been made at football stadiums and there’s been a shift in people feeling happier to not only report discrimination but to challenge it amongst their fellow supporters as well.

The advances in technology have brought many advantages for supporters as they can discuss the latest football news and revel or wallow in their team’s success or failure. It has brought about problems though and what we see at Kick It Out reflects wider issues online.

For those of you who aren’t football supporters, Kick It Out is English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Established in 1993 and firstly known as ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football’, the organisation has grown and in 1997 changed its name to Kick It Out.

Now concerned with tacking all forms of discrimination within the game, Kick It Out looks to use the positive impact football can have to communicate messages of equality and inclusion.

In our role as a third-party reporting bureau, the organisation first started receiving reports of social media discrimination in 2012/13.

A full-time reporting officer was first appointed in 2013 to deal with all discrimination reports, right across English football, from the riches of the Premier League to those who play the game for their sheer love of it in the wind and rain on Sunday mornings. Alongside this, year-on-year reports of social media discrimination have risen.

Some of the comments are truly shocking and many in our office were taken aback by the vitriol and hatred produced online. It has become common place though for too many in the digital age.

A common question is ‘would people say that to my face?’ – and you do wonder if many of the users would approach you face-to-face and be so strong with their views. We have to change the mind-set that ‘it’s OK’ to direct this discrimination online, as if it isn’t real life for some.

Often social media discrimination towards high-profile players will be rightly picked up by the media but we also have to deal with discrimination towards other supporters. It’s when you hear these personal stories that it hits home about the impact it can have on an individual.

This summer’s campaign looks to raise awareness of the problem of football-related social media discrimination and also publicise ways of reporting such abuse, one of which is through us at Kick It Out.

To tie-in with Euro 2016, Kick It Out, alongside Brandwatch, a world leading social intelligence and analytics company, will monitor online discrimination towards those European nations competing, including the full squads from England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales.

This follows on from research published in April 2015 looking at direct discrimination towards Premier League players and clubs, which first highlighted the true extent of the problem. Between August 2014 and March 2015, 134.4K discriminatory posts were made on publicly accessible social media platforms, forums and websites.

At Kick It Out we’re determined to continue campaigning for reforms in this area, to ensure there’s greater action from all concerned in the football world, social media platforms and 
and in civil authorities, and for there to be clear penalties for those posting discrimination.

Roisin Wood is the Director of Kick It Out. Visit klickitout.org to find out more about the campaign.