Kick It Out launches Take A Stand campaign to battle online discrimination

Image: Take A Stand is the latest campaign launched by Kick It Out

Take A Stand is a new campaign from Kick It Out that is encouraging people across the football community to take action against racism and other forms of discrimination by publicly pledging to be part of positive change.

Reports of discrimination rose by 42 per cent last season, and the charity fears that the continuation of football being played behind closed doors will only lead to another rise in online abuse suffered by players as fans watch games from home.

Social media companies have faced a lot of criticism for failing to take enough responsibility for offensive comments posted on their platforms.

They have been involved in discussions with Kick It Out, the Premier League, the FA and Government over the last 18 months to see what more they can do.

Wilfried Zaha wears boots bearing 'No Room For Racism' messaging 2:10
Facebook's regional director of Northern Europe Steve Hatch explains how the social media giant is tackling racism in football

Something to emerge from those discussions is a partnership between Kick It Out, Twitter and Facebook, the world's largest social media platform that also owns Instagram - the platform where earlier this year Wilfried Zaha revealed the level of racist abuse he had been subjected to.

The sad truth is that most football fans will have witnessed some form of discrimination in football - on the terraces, in dressing rooms or on social media.

Take A Stand is about turning that awareness into action.

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Kick It Out chair Sanjar Bhandari hopes the campaign will bring about real change and warned discrimination is at epidemic proportions in grassroots football

Having witnessed a groundswell of support for Black Lives Matter and other anti-discrimination causes in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari is hoping to tap into that activism by empowering people to make a public pledge to do their part.

"We really wanted something that would inspire people to do something personal," Bhandari said.

"My experience is that if I make a promise privately, only to myself, which no one hears, it's much easier to break. There's just something about the act of making a pledge in public with witnesses that means I had better do that.

"We know that social media can be a battleground of hate, which is why we're working closely with Facebook and Twitter to improve that through looking at better regulation and enforcement, as well as updated and new reporting methods."

One of the ways Facebook is getting involved in the fight is by building a new automated messenger service - for when fans are back in stadiums - enabling people to report matchday discrimination directly to Kick It Out.

Wilfried Zaha was the match-winner as Crystal Palace beat Southampton
Image: Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has spoken publicly about the online abuse he has received

They are also rolling out an anti-hate education programme alongside clubs, and fans will soon be able to get access to anti-discrimination resources through a simple WhatsApp message.

Steve Hatch is Facebook's vice-president for northern Europe, and admits that although they are making progress in tackling online discrimination, they still have to do more.

"This is a big, big, big focus for us, like all of us I think in particular every single organisation, every single person is really reassessing what can we do in this area to improve the experiences of all people of black heritage," Hatch said.

"We know that there are improvements that we can continue to make, and we will make. In fact, with some of the feedback that we've had either working either directly with players or associations, that's led us to introduce a number of changes even at product level."

Facebook now has 35,000 employees that focus solely on safety and integrity, and they have invested billions of pounds to try to support those efforts to remove discrimination. The partnership with Kick It Out is another step on that journey, but Bhandari says they will not be allowed to rest on their laurels.

"We are going to continue to be a critic and a friend, it's called having a grown-up relationship with them in the same way that we already do with the Premier League and the FA and everybody else," he said.

"Discrimination didn't end with the last football season, discrimination is not going to end at the end of Black History Month I'm sad to say. We are deliberately creating a campaign that is designed to last through the season to collect the pledges, and to really focus on actions of individuals."

Sky Sports has launched its own Hate Won't Stop Us campaign to highlight the scale of online hate and abuse, and the damage that it can inflict upon people.

It stands alongside a commitment to do more to tackle racism and to champion diversity in sport, as an employer, broadcaster and publisher.

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This is the message from Sky Sports presenters and reporters, who have united in supporting a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media

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