Soccer-UEFA steps up fight against online racist abuse of players


Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Second Leg - Liverpool v Inter Milan - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - March 8, 2022 Official match ball displaying the logo of the UEFA Champions League REUTERS/Phil Noble/Files

(Reuters) - UEFA is to launch a programme to combat online racist abuse of footballers by working with social media companies to remove harmful content from platforms and raising awareness, it said on Sunday.

Europe's soccer governing body added that the programme, which will start at the July 6-31 Women's European Championship, will work to "actively monitor, report and remedy" cases of online abuse.

England's Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the targets of online racist abuse after they missed penalties in a 3-2 shootout loss to Italy in last year's European Championship final.

A report published by FIFA last month revealed that more than half of players at last year's European Championship and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) were subjected to discriminatory abuse online.

"The respect programme targets concrete actions to prevent abusive online behaviour and discrimination during all of its final competitions, including youth, women's and men's competition final matches for the next three years," UEFA said in a statement.

"To ensure that harmful content is removed, UEFA is working directly with major social media platforms such as Twitter, Meta (Instagram and Facebook) and TikTok."

The programme will include a "Real Scars" campaign featuring footballers Wendie Renard, Jorginho and Alisha Lehmann.

That will "highlight the devastating effects of online abuse" and educate players, coaches and officials on how to defend themselves.

"When you say something on social media, you do not realise how painful it is or the consequences it can have," Renard said.

"It can leave a mark because we are all human, we all have emotions."

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)

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