An online petition calling on anyone found guilty of racially abusing England players to be banned from attending all games across the country is approaching a million signatures but the majority of those to have sent hate messages are likely to escape any action.
Investigations have been opened by a number of police forces, including the Met, into posts directed at Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka and Manchester United pair Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford after they failed to score penalties in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy.
A mural of the latter in Withington, Manchester was defaced later that night but has since been covered over by messages of support.
The petition, which was created by women referring to themselves as #TheThreeHijabs, has 915,000 signatures at the time of writing having been published early on Monday.
“We are calling for the Football Association and the government to work together now to ban all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life,” it said.
The FA will ban anyone found guilty in the UK of hate speech from all England games and events at Wembley but the majority of posts have come from accounts based abroad, meaning police have no jurisdiction to act.
A significant number of IP addresses have been traced to Thailand, with sources indicating that they are believed to have come from gamblers who had lost money on the game.
The FA does not have the power to bar those found guilty from attending club football but they will encourage clubs to act individually. “Many will do that,” an FA source said.
There is also a growing sense of frustration over the government’s failure to push through its online harms bill. A senior FA source said they are again encouraging Westminster to act quickly but no imminent movement is expected. The bill, which the Labour party have said is “watered down”, passed a draft stage in May but there has been little progress since and summer recess begins next week.
Discussions between the FA and the three main social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – have taken place since Sunday and there have been renewed calls for the corporations to dedicate more resources to creating an algorithm that can stop hate speech from appearing.
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Staff at Twitter had been monitoring the situation in real time on Sunday night in an attempt to remove posts instantly but their efforts were insufficient.
Yesterday a man in Manchester was suspended from his job in real estate after a racist remark appeared on his Twitter page, although he claims that he was hacked. A police investigation is continuing.
Players are being encouraged to continue speaking out against the issue and the FA says it has offered its full support to those affected.