Manchester United report 350% increase in online abuse towards players as club joins social media boycott

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford is among those to have called on social media companies to tackle online abuse

Manchester United says it has seen a 350% increase in abuse towards its players online in the past 18 months.

The club says the comments peaked in January 2021, where more than 400 posts abusing players were recorded.

United has also suspended six individuals following the abuse of Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son on social media following the match on 11 April.

Three season ticket holders, two official members and one individual on the season ticket waiting list are alleged to have breached club rules.

The figures on abuse come as the team joins others across the sporting world for a social media boycott over lack of action on online abuse.

The boycott across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels "in response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse" will start at 3pm on Friday 30 April through until 11.59pm on Monday night.

In a review of posts sent to players and others connected to Manchester United between September 2019 and February 2021, the club say it has seen a huge 350% rise in comments which were either racist, homophobic or abusive.

The vast majority of racist posts, they say, contained either the N word, or emojis used with racist intent.

The in-depth review into the issue focused on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts, and checked for abusive words being used against players’ names or account handles.

In the analysis, every abusive post was categorised with 3,300 posts targeting players who were playing for United at that time across the reporting period.

The club says fans are also being targeted by abuse on social media, with a user-to-user abuse within the football community also sharply rising since summer 2020.

Of posts towards fans, 43% were racist in nature, while 7% were homophobic or transphobic.

Footballers and other sports stars have been taking a knee before games to highlight the issue of racism. Credit: PA Images

Manchester United Womens team player Lauren James is one of the players who has been targeted.

Coach Casey Stoney says the club say won't stand for it.

Richard Arnold, Group Managing Director, said: "We have been actively campaigning against discrimination for some time through our All Red All Equal initiative.

"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.

"It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive.”

United has also set up an online reporting system for fans and says it will work with the Premier League to escalate any complaints received to the social media platforms and the relevant authorities.