UK Government Proposes New Penalties for Sending Soccer Players Racist Abuse Online

Legislation will likely be introduced next year

Soccer ball
Lawmakers are addressing soccer's online racism problem.
Omar Ram/Unsplash

If you follow soccer in England — whether via a favorite club or the national team — you’re probably aware of the racist abuse that some thoroughly toxic individuals feel compelled to direct at players. Sometimes this happens in person; sometimes it takes place online. Awareness of this issue was heightened over the summer when a trio of English players were targeted via racist online attacks after the Euro 2020 final.

The abuse was thoroughly condemned from all sides, from the soccer community to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In the wake of the tournament, Johnson spoke of updating the country’s laws to address racist abuse. Currently, Football Banning Orders regulate fans’ conduct at games, but don’t extend to online spaces.

In other words, someone heckling a player with racist or homophobic language would run afoul of Football Banning Orders — but the same person flooding that player’s Instagram comments with identical language would not.

Now, The Athletic reports that the United Kingdom’s government has announced a plan to update these laws to cover online abuse. Those people who abuse players online could face bans lasting between three and 10 years from games in England and Wales.

The updates to the law are set to be introduced early next year, and seem to have wide support. Will it help reduce the amount of horrific abuse players are facing? One can hope.

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