Scottish football governing bodies unite in support of social media boycott this weekend

Scottish football will come together under the campaign hashtag #FootballUnites to boycott social media between 3pm on Friday, April 30 and 11.59pm on Monday, May 3; move mirrors similar pledges across English football, cricket, rugby union and tennis

Football clubs will stage a three-day social media boycott next weekend in a bid to highlight the issue of online abuse
Image: Scottish football's governing bodies will stage a three-day social media boycott this weekend

Scotland's football and rugby governing bodies will unite in support of a social media boycott this weekend in response to "continuing racist and discriminatory abuse".

Football clubs across Scotland will join the Scottish FA (SFA), Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), Scottish Women's Football and PFA Scotland for the boycott, which will last from 3pm on Friday, April 30, until 11.59pm on Monday, May 3.

Under the campaign hashtag #FootballUnites, teams will be invited to limit their posts, or refrain entirely from posting on their social media channels.

In a statement, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "Discrimination of any kind has absolutely no place in Scottish football and the online abuse received by some of those involved in our national game is absolutely abhorrent.

"The SPFL is committed to ensuring that Scottish football is inclusive and welcoming to all. Players and supporters from diverse backgrounds have played, and continue to play, an enormously positive and valued role in our game.

Sanjay Bhandari (PA) 1:04
Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari says a weekend-long collective social media boycott from English football is a 'call to action' for tech companies and the government to help stamp out online abuse

"Diversity is part of what makes Scottish football what it is, it should be protected and championed.

"As a society, we all have a responsibility to stamp out abusive behaviour and ensure that everyone, regardless of background, can enjoy football in this country without fear of receiving hate-filled messages online.

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"Social media provides a wonderful platform for clubs of all sizes to communicate with their fans. It's a platform that our clubs have used to great effect in recent years but it is also a medium that is being abused by a vile and mindless minority.

"These cowards often hide behind anonymous accounts and it is incumbent upon social media companies to actively and aggressively combat this problem.

"The SPFL will continue to work with our member clubs and partners, including Show Racism the Red Card, the Scottish FA and Police Scotland to drive home the message that there's no place in our game for discrimination of any kind."

social media
Image: The planned boycott is designed to draw attention to the issue of racism and abuse on social media platforms

Ian Maxwell, SFA chief executive, said: "The Scottish FA is encouraged that football has united against the growing scourge of online abuse and we are proud to play our part in supporting the social media boycott.

"Through the work of our Equality and Diversity Board we have set up Football Unites, an equality framework that underlines our commitment to fairness, justice, respect, inclusion and the removal of barriers.

"At our recent summit meeting involving clubs and representatives of the game we witnessed a groundswell of people motivated to tackle inequality in all its forms.

"We are also in dialogue with social media companies to ensure adequate preventative measures are put in place to tackle the specific issue of online abuse via those channels."

1:32
Kick It Out CEO Tony Burnett has welcomed the boycotts of social media from a number of clubs and players but feels it needs to be just one initiative in the fight against online hate

Vivienne MacLaren, Scottish Women's Football Chair, added: "The exposure the women's game continues to get across all media channels is extremely exciting for us all.

"What has sadly come along with this wider reach has been an increase in abusive and discriminatory language targeted at those involved in our game.

"This has been particularly prevalent on social media and we have made it very clear we will not tolerate this.

"We hope that this action reminds media owners that they must stand up to this abusive behaviour and make perpetrators think twice."

'Scottish Rugby is open to everyone'

Scottish Rugby also announced it would join the boycott, along with club sides Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors.

"We know rugby excites passion but there is absolutely no place in our game for anyone to peddle hate and abuse online," said Scottish Rugby board chairman John Jeffrey.

"Scottish Rugby is open to everyone. We are committed to enhancing inclusion and diversity in our sport and to underline our determination that our social media platforms should be safe and welcoming spaces for all."

The announcement follows in the footsteps of the governing bodies across English football, as well as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Premiership Rugby, and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), who are also boycotting.

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Kick It Out is football's equality and inclusion organisation - working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.

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