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

Sanjay Bhandari.
Sanjay Bhandari.

KICK IT OUT charity has launched ‘Take A Stand’ campaign to encourage people across the football community to take action against online racism and other forms of discrimination as reports of discrimination rose by 42 per cent last season.

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.

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

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

“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.”

Recently, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has spoken publicly about the online abuse he has received.

The charity Kick It Out was established as a campaign with the brand name ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ in 1993 and as an organisation in 1997.

The organisation works within the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change.

Social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook 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.

Facebook is building a new automated messenger service – for when fans are back in stadiums – enabling people to report match day discrimination directly to Kick It Out.

The company is 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, Facebook’s vice-president for northern Europe, has admitted that although they are making progress in tackling online discrimination, they still have to do more.

“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,” he told Sky Sports.

Bhandari said: “We are going to continue to be a critic and a friend, it’s called having a grown-up relationship with them (Facebook) in the same way that we already do with the Premier League and the FA and everybody else.

“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.”

Internationally Kick It Out plays a leading role in the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and has been cited as an example of good practice by the European governing body UEFA, the world governing body FIFA, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, European parliamentarians and the British Council.