Abuse and discrimination, online and in the real world, has been a hot topic in the football world recently, not necessarily because it has increased in volume or intensity, but rather due to high-profile incidents putting the spotlight on an ever-present issue. Following the horrendous racist abuse of England’s young stars after their penalty loss in the Euros finals, Georginio Wijnaldum went public with his feelings about the behaviour of a subset of Liverpool fans contributing to his decision to move elsewhere this summer.
Now, the Premier League has committed to new measures and stronger sanctions against fans who engage in abusive of discriminatory behaviour.
“LFC is committed to eradicating all forms of abuse and discrimination, both online and in-stadium,” read a statement on the club’s official site. “The club has worked closely with Spirit of Shankly (the supporters trust) and the Football Supporters’ Association to develop and implement a robust and transparent sanctions process that has been in place since 2019.
“Aligned with the club’s work within Red Together, which encompasses LFC’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion, the sanctions process strives to be at the forefront and, when appropriate, focuses on education rather than punishment alone.
“LFC, along with the other 19 Premier League clubs, fully supports the Premier League’s commitment to tackling abuse or discrimination and will be implementing the new measures alongside its own official sanctions process,” the statement continued.
“The updated sanctions will be imposed for any individual who is proven to have behaved in an abusive or discriminatory way either online or in person towards any club employee, player, match official, matchday steward or supporters. These enforceable measures include tougher actions for perpetrators, including permanent bans from all Premier League matches, not just the club they support.
“The Premier League clubs’ joint commitment will also establish a system whereby clubs work together and share information to allow mutual enforcement of sanctions and ensure they are applied effectively to all matches.”
While this contains all the right buzzwords — permanent bans, focus on education, the inclusion of online abuse, mutual enforcement — it is not the first time the sporting bodies claim they will get tough on abusive fan behaviour, far from it, and yet the problem persists.
Hopefully, even if they can never completely eradicate what is at its core a cultural and societal issue from the sport, these new measures are able to make the experience of both players and fans, both on social media and in the stadiums, a more tolerable one than what is currently the case.