by Andrew Orlowski
Monday, 27
December 2021
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10:22

Banning online trolls from football is an empty gesture

A new anti-racism policy won't fix anything
by Andrew Orlowski
Marcus Rashford after he missed his penalty (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

With superstar footballers emerging as our new moral leaders, venerated in murals across the land, new laws to protect them were bound to follow. The Government has stepped forward to do just that, with the modern equivalent of a law against knocking off a bishop’s mitre.

In an extension to the Football Banning Orders (FBOs) online trolls will be banned from attending football matches in the UK for ten years. It follows racist online abuse directed at black English football players after the final of the Euros 2020 competition.

The very existence of FBOs today might seem jarring to anyone who attended the game in the Eighties. In an era when away fans regularly dodged darts and bottles of urine, the perilous post-match journey back to the coach or train station was taken at a canter; if the home fans didn’t get past the police assigned to “protect” you, those police could take it upon themselves to give you a good kicking.

While few would say they missed that, it’s not uncommon to complain that today’s game is more characterised by organised clapping and ritual gestures of piety. Football has become one of our most popular middle-class activities; it’s cricket that can claim to be the most authentically diverse sport by class, as Jon Hotten has pointed out — and, including the amateur cricket leagues, by race.

Racism is repellent at all times, but today it has largely vanished from the terraces. It more visibly persists in the club boardrooms, with the curious reluctance of elite clubs to appoint black managers. Only ten have coached in the Premier League in three decades: several of those were caretakers, while other appointments were short-lived. As in corporate America, the focus seems more like a way of over-compensating and diverting attention.

The data behind the “torrent” or “tsunami” of racism last June fuels such suspicions. Twitter said it removed 126 Tweets in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final manually after complaints from users, while the rest were removed by automated tools. Three quarters of the racist Tweets deemed to meet the criminal threshold by our Football Policing Unit originated outside the UK, something also confirmed by a BBC investigation. And measuring the likely offence caused is difficult too, as only 2%, Sky reported, had received over a thousand views.

A live attendance ban seems a strange way of dealing with foreign trolls who don’t attend the matches anyway, but maybe civil servants know that, and that isn’t really the point of extending the FBOs.

What we’re really looking at is a kind of mutual agreement between social media teams. The communications teams at DCMS and the Home Office have become adept at filling the dead space on Sundays and during public holidays with such pronouncements, which gather instant approval, but which are largely fatuous. The social media teams who devise the superstars’ media strategies, such as Roc Nation, will be flattered. The clubs and the League can congratulate themselves too. And the trolls on the troll farms will feel validated, and indulge in the fantasy that they represent a genuine threat to civilisation — and, no doubt, will try harder next time.

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Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
6 months ago

I warmly approve of football fans booing the morons on the pitch “taking the knee” to the racist hate group Black Lives Matter.

Janet Balmer
Janet Balmer
6 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

As a Sunderland fan living in Surrey, I attended the Arsenal vs Sunderland Carabao Cup quarter final at the Emirates on Tuesday. Arsenal took the knee. Sunderland did not. As expected, many of the Sunderland fans booed but some Arsenal fans also booed which was surprising – maybe premier league fans are waking up to what this signifies? I didn’t hear any racist language whatsoever during the game, however the Arsenal fans were happy to chant “Its a long way home and you’re poor” at the Sunderland fans repeatedly towards the end (as we lost). We’re used to this. It’s been going on for years. More recently however, since Brexit, Sunderland folk have been singled out as ignorant, right wing plebs by those of a remainer/left/woke disposition. This is unfair. Undoubtedly there are exceptions, however, the conversations I’ve heard in pubs pre-match demonstrate a people who may be poor, but who have an interest in current affairs, a passion for their culture, and fully understand what taking the knee represents.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago
Reply to  Janet Balmer

I gather from my son who was at the match that “taking the knee” is primarily a political gesture by premier league players who don’t want to exclude themselves from consideration for the England team. Sunderland don’t have any black players or contenders for the England team so it is irrelevant for them.
That said they have had black players in the past and the supporters have always been behind them 100%. There will always be idiots in any group of supporters of any sport but football is certainly no hotbed of racist sentiment.
As Dan Gleeballs said any apparent racism is more likely an extreme form of wind up. On the few occasions I have been at matches I have never heard any racist chants or behaviour.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
6 months ago

Non-football lovers seem to think footy fans spend weekends throwing bananas at black players, and the rest of the weekn spouting racist vitriol in online forums. Maybe they should try going to a game to see what the reality is.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

I posted on a football forum where a bunch of woke morons were going on about racism in football.

I mentioned that, as an Indian origin immigrant who has been to many dozens of games over 15 years, I have not seen a single, solitary case of racism.

Of course, I noticed a few hours later that my post had been deleted.

That’s why you have black history month but not Indian history month (and thank God for that, I should add) in a country whose extended empire comprised of roughly 2/3 rd Indians and relatively few blacks

Last edited 6 months ago by Samir Iker
Lucas Daly
Lucas Daly
6 months ago

The supply and demand problem for racists continues

Julian Rigg
Julian Rigg
6 months ago

Pay me £100K a week and you can verbally abuse me all you like. The rest can call me a hero! Well, not a real hero. That word has reallly been abused.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago

Those complaining about racism are idiots, liars and hypocrites.
A couple of examples:
– Those complaining about not enough black managers don’t seem to complain about the utter lack of Asians (twice the size of blacks in UK) because non muslim Asians are not born victims.
– Apparently there was “racist abuse” against 3 out if the 5 who missed penalties, who were all from the same race that’s just 3% of the population (what are the odds? Is it racist that so many blacks are in high earning football)
Apart from the fact that it was some anonymous tweets, or most of them were from outside UK… if they had scored, do you think supposedly responsible media houses, BBC, football commentators would have ignored their race and talked about them as English? Really?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Yes, if the England squad was chosen to be representative of the country’s “racial mix” we would have far fewer black players and at least one player of Indian origin. Presumably to get the balance just right there would have to be more mixed race players to represent the “races” who were only entitled to half or less of a player. For some reason the benefits of racially balanced diversity doesn’t seem to be applied to the England squad.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Nor does the concept of diversity apply to male teachers, conservatives in universities or working class males in anything other than jobs with high mortality rates.

It’s almost as if it were a charade…

Last edited 6 months ago by Samir Iker
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

The concept of diversity in investment is designed to reduce risk in a portfolio but it only works if there is genuine diversity. Diversity in the woke world won’t work because the selection is not made on the basis or real diversity of thought and talent but on the basis of skin colour which adds zilch to the mix. As you say a charade – by idiots.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
6 months ago

It’s worth pointing out that some fans will say anything – absolutely anything – to put an opposing player off their game. If the striker’s mother is dying of cancer, that will be the chant; if they were recently in court for dangerous driving and hitting someone, that could be it.

Or if they’re black. Is it racism to pick at a potential weakness in such a way? It feels more opportunistic and practical than that. (If chanting “Do you take her up the Arsenal?” at David Beckham spoiled a free kick or two, well, that was the point.)

I’m not for a moment suggesting racism doesn’t exist in football. Human beings have been suspicious of different tribes for thousands of years, in all cultures. That instant suspicion is hard to shake. I have been known to check my wallet on hearing a Welsh accent, for example.

Yet in football, there are excellent reasons for wanting a star player to sob in the toilets that have nothing to do with his race or skin colour – it just sounds that way.

Last edited 6 months ago by Dan Gleeballs
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Very good point.
There is a difference between
a. racism and
b. saying insulting things about race.

Last edited 6 months ago by Samir Iker
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

I haven’t been to your house recently – do you still have beef?

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
6 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Or ever? I do have some turkey left over, if that helps.

James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago

With superstar footballers emerging as our new moral leaders, venerated in murals across the land, new laws to protect them were bound to follow. The Government has stepped forward to do just that, with the modern equivalent of a law against knocking off a bishop’s mitre.
The extreme idiocy of these laws must certainly follow the veneration of footballers as “new moral leaders.”
Racist chants are bad, I wouldn’t do it, but it is fair play to verbally abuse anyone genuflecting to hate groups such as BLM. Fortunately things are utterly great in the UK right now, so the government has nothing better to do than to protect the most privileged members of society: the overpaid, overindulged footballers, many of whom are complete morons.
Whatever happened to “sticks and stones….” Where is the resiliency? UK government simply pathetic.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
6 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“I wouldn’t do it, but it is fair play to verbally abuse anyone genuflecting to hate groups such as BLM.”
I would, and I am absolutely not racist.

James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Clarification: I meant I wouldn’t participate in racist chants. I would participate in attack BLM and other hate groups. Thought I said that, but at least I have now clarified.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
6 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

One good clarification deserves another. I just meant that I would boo the “knee-taking” nonsense.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Certain sections of the media (and players agents) might paint certain footballers as “our moral leaders”.
Instead of the author disingenuously implying that they are “my” moral leader – he should maybe keep to the facts.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ian Barton
James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Excellent point. I don’t (accept them as moral leaders, leaders of any type, really), but many due. And at some point, because it is so widely accepted, hard to swim against the tide….

Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
6 months ago

As per usual the comments section on UnHerd is an absolute sewer

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

The sewer is a great sanitary invention but presumably you don’t approve. The comments are simply fair comment and lived experience. If you have anything useful to contribute feel free.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

I suggest you visit other sites instead if you can’t (or won’t) offer a reasoned response to any individual comment which usually encourages a conversation/debate to develop.
Just adding general insults in threads adds nothing – other than suspicion that the contributor of these insults does not have the intellectual capacity to have a debate.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ian Barton
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
6 months ago
Reply to  Milos Bingles

Some of the comments and ensuing debates are often better and more informative (to this sewer rat) than the original article.
ratus dwr cymru

Last edited 6 months ago by Doug Pingel