Man United review finds 350% increase in social media abuse directed at players

Manchester United have said they have seen a 350% increase in social media abuse directed at their players, based on an internal review.

United will join English football in boycotting social media this weekend, in response to the online abuse directed to their players.

Teams, players and the governing bodies of English football agreed last week to boycott social media from 3 p.m. on Friday April 30 until 11:59 p.m. on Monday May 3.

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Football's European governing body UEFA said it would also join this weekend's action, along with organisations from British tennis, cricket, rugby and cycling.

The study by United, looking at data from September 2019 to February 2021 across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, has seen a sharp rise in abuse directed to their players.

The review checked for abusive words across those platforms and included 3,330 posts across that timeframe.

Of these, 86% were racist, while 8% were anti-transgender or anti-gay. The abuse peaked in January 2021 with over 400 abusive player posts recorded by the review.

The review also established there has been a rise in fan-to-fan abuse on social media.

United also confirmed they have suspended six supporters (three season ticket holders, two official members and one on the waiting list for a season ticket) for abuse directed at Tottenham's Son Heung-Min.

"We have been actively campaigning against discrimination for some time through our All Red All Equal initiative," United's group managing director Richard Arnold said.

"The level of support we have received for this work from our fans has been hugely encouraging but these figures show that despite that, the level of abuse our players and fans receive is on the up.

"It must be said that while these numbers are shocking, they do only represent a 0.01% of conversations that take place on social media about the club and the players.

"By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue. It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive."

While governing bodies and teams have all joined together for the boycott, the players are also calling for fans to join in.

Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton, alongside her club teammates such as Ellie Roebuck and Lucy Bronze, posted on Twitter and Instagram asking fans to join them in boycotting social media.