Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, the campaign group against racism in football, says that data from the last two seasons of football shows around 70 per cent of abuse originates overseas. “These are not football fans,” he says. “They are people who have never been inside an English football ground.”
In part that’s because – while our problem with racism is acute – we don’t have a monopoly on being morons.
Some suggest that Russian or Chinese trolls may have weaponised discontent around football to intensify political and social tensions in England.
“It will be totally unsurprising if trolls started sharing bad stuff for these players, given that their goal is to sow public discord, and this is an excellent opportunity to do so,” says Savvas Zannettou of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, who studies information warfare online.
The abuse is, however, testament to the global nature of football.
Brighton striker Neal Maupay received digital death threats after scoring against Arsenal in June 2020. The person who sent them was given a nine-month probation order this month. The 19-year-old perpetrator wasn’t from Sunderland or Somerset, but Singapore. “It is, from a perpetrator perspective,” says Bhandari, “a global pandemic.”
(Extracts from an article in the New Statesman by Chris Stokel-Walker about online racist abuse of British footballers and where it comes from which you can read in full here.)