Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick has become the latest Premier League footballer to be targeted with vile racist abuse, prompting renewed calls for Ofcom to oversee a crack down on offensive social media postings.
McGoldrick took a screenshot of the abuse he had received on Instagram, writing above it ‘2020 and this is life’, and the message has since been reported.
It comes just a day after a 12-year-old boy was arrested in connection with racist messages that were sent to Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, also on Instagram, which included a picture of a Ku Klux Klan gathering.
Zaha has thanked West Midlands Police for their “swift action” and said that it was important that social media platforms seek out and remove perpetrators.
“People need to understand that behaviour and words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media,” said Zaha. “We need action, we need education, things need to change.” Zaha also stressed that he had received racist messages before and that it has become a daily occurrence for professional footballers.
McGoldrick, who had scored the first two Premier League goals of his career in Saturday’s 3-0 win against Chelsea, highlighted his abuse on Monday morning and he has since been offered support by both the Premier League and Sheffield United.
"This cannot continue - something needs to change," said a club statement. “As a club we will support David McGoldrick and will do all we can to find the perpetrator of this disgusting message. We will work with the relevant authorities to ensure the person behind this post is brought to justice.” the safest place to be online”.
The Professional Footballers’ Association and Kick It Out have called for concerted government action to tackle the wider issue of how people can anonymously post such abuse. The PFA, which is the trade union for professional footballers in England and Wales, now wants Ofcom to oversee the enforcement of legislation. Kick It Out, which is football's equality and inclusion organisation, said that social media had been allowed to become like the “wild west”.
In a statement, the PFA described the posts as “sickening and abhorrent” and said that players were the “relentless” targets for online abuse.
“Incidents, such as this, only strengthen the case for tighter regulation of social media companies,” said the PFA. “We call on the authorities to accelerate the process of appointing Ofcom as the regulator to oversee the Online Harms legislation.'
Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, said that the sort of messages which had been reported were no longer even a surprise. “This kind of disgusting targeted racist abuse has become normalised on social media,” he said.
“Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are like the Wild West. To address this we need social media companies to do more. We also need a concerted and sustained effort between government, law enforcement and the football authorities to prioritise the gathering of evidence and prosecution of online hate.
“We need to show the online haters that they will be tracked and that there are consequences for their actions. At the moment, they act with complete impunity.”
A new online system to allow Premier League players to report abuse has also been launched while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said previously that his government will “ensure that the UK is the safest place to be online”.