A study has shown that over 55 per cent of players who featured in the finals of Euro 2020 and this year’s Africa Cup of Nations were abused online.
The independent report, released by FIFA five months prior to the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, identified that homophobic and racist comments were the two main areas of concern.
Over 400,000 social media posts were examined, spread across Twitter and Instagram, and 541 cases of direct discrimination or other forms of abuse were discovered.
The majority of hate comments were found to have originated from the home countries of targeted players, with 38 per cent having been made in the United Kingdom.
The study showed that 40 per cent of abusive messages contained homophobic content, and 38 per cent were racist. A further three per cent were categorised as containing a threat, while 58 per cent of the racist remarks were found to be still visible online in April 2022, with 87 per cent of non-racist abuse also still live.
The report comes after England players Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford received racist abuse online after missing in the Euro 2020 final penalty shoot-out against Italy, which England ultimately lost.
It was revealed that 78 per cent of the abuse aimed at players involved in that game contained racist remarks.
Such abuse was heavily condemned by England manager Gareth Southgate as well as UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who vowed to take action against racist trolls.
FIFA has published an independent report highlighting the increasing abuse directed at footballers across social media during international tournaments.
FIFA & @FIFPRO will coordinate and implement a plan together to protect teams, players, officials & fans from abuse.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) June 18, 2022
For the AFCON final between Senegal and Egypt, the abuse was found to be 26 per cent racist in tone, and 62 per cent homophobic.
FIFA said it would collaborate with global players’ union FIFPRO to start a moderation service to monitor hate speech during upcoming tournaments, in the hope it will stop the messages being seen by the intended targets.
“Our duty is to protect football, and that starts with the players who bring so much joy and happiness to all of us by their exploits on the field of play,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.
“We want our actions to speak louder than our words and that is why we are taking concrete measures to tackle the problem directly.”
As well as the moderation tool, educational and mental health advice will be offered to players at FIFA tournaments in 2022 and 2023 to help them deal with online abuse.