Behind every football match, there is a win, a loss, a performance that was good or not so good. During a game, there are actions, rituals, movements, decisions, talents, passion and players. Human beings with feelings.
Although it’s sometimes hard to understand for some, football players are people, just like you and me. They probably already know when the final whistle goes off how they have been performing. Yet, the growth of both the game, media coverage and social media platforms have not been capable of keeping up.
Raging fans, people with opinions, random accounts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. They are all there with one mission. To make their voices heard. Even if that means hurling abuse towards a club, a coach, background staff or journalists who write things they don’t agree with. Though, perhaps most of all, this abuse is directed to single out players as a way to place blame for a bitter loss.
Football has had enough.
A collective boycott of social media led by the English football landscape will take place between 3:00 pm on Friday 30th April and 11:59 pm on Monday 3rd May. It is designed to put pressure on social media platforms in order for a difference to be made in how online abuse is handled.
UEFA has announced that they will join the social media boycott and FIFPRO along with all players associations are encouraged to join.
Time for action
Elin Landström, defender in the Swedish top-flight club Linköping FC, is not only a football player. She is also an educated lawyer who works within the Swedish player association. Her mission there is to make lives for women’s footballers better.
“If I speak for myself, I have always been my biggest critic. And even though I might know the rational things to think after a game, sometimes you can’t avoid the negative feelings that invade your mind after a game where you know you could have done so much better. I would love to say that young footballers would not have to prepare to meet social media storms, journalists that write how bad you have been or supporters that tell you that you were crap on the day. But I don’t know if that’s possible to not learn to prepare for,” Landström said.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see the positive things being written on timelines. Often times, they are overshadowed by the darkness, the raw hate, the massive abuse along with cruel accusations.
We can report, we can press charges and go to the police. But it still doesn’t stop. The social media platforms and their owners can’t (or won’t?) stop it. But English football has had enough. It’s time for action.
“I think it’s time for an action like this. To show for real that one means serious business about it. This will definitely show to the social media companies and their owners. They have to start to take responsibility and when such a big movement as football takes a collective decision like this, it will show,” Landström said.
It will show
Landström is an experienced football player in the Damallsvenskan. She grew up in Umeå, something you can refer to as the Swedish women’s football’s Mecca. Umeå IK is also the club where she started her pro football career. Landström has also been playing for Göteborgs FC, now BK Häcken, before she joined Linköping back in 2018.
She may not be the most outspoken football player when it comes to social media platforms. But, when talking to her, it’s safe to say that she holds a strong passion for fundamental problems and challenges within the growth and development of women’s football.
“I’ve never been through social media hate myself. But I follow English football closely; both the Premier League and the Super League. I get most information from the clubs ahead of and during match days on the social media platforms. I can assure you, the silence and the boycott will show on the timeline and social media platforms can not ignore it. It should matter to them.
“Several times before there have been small interventions, like hashtags that have been trending with the mission to stop the haters. But nothing as big as this. Those actions have been more directed to the haters, this is bigger; I really hope that social media will notice, take action and start to change things for the better.”
Not copy everything
The latest happenings about the 12 clubs that united around the idea of starting a Super League has grown the debate around what men’s football can do for women’s football. There are several perspectives to consider when copying setups and things from the men’s game. One might say that the culture within the game and among supporters could be one thing where not everything should be brought into the women’s game from the men’s.
“When there’s a bigger buzz created around things you know that everything will not be positive. We can see it in England now. Women’s football gets more attention, more media coverage and with that, the interaction and the engagement also grows. Most of the time, it’s positive, but the negative things also show. That part, where we have the time to change what is not so good in the men’s game, we might not have to bring into the women’s game. Keep what is good, scrap the not so good things,” Landström reflected.
In Sweden, a lot of the social media content on the clubs’ platforms is created and posted by the players themselves. Most clubs don’t have the money to hire communication or social media managers. When abuse, hate and accusations are posted on the Swedish clubs’ timelines, it reaches the players. Luckily Landström feels that the Swedish women’s football hasn’t been demolished with the worst and hateful comments yet if she compares it with what she has witnessed from other European countries’ football clubs.
“Often here it’s the same people that post the negative stuff and it’s easier for us to shake it off and don’t bother. But the bigger the game gets, this growth we are experiencing now, will make it an important question for the clubs to deal with. Clubs need to have strategies in order to know how to deal with it. Even though social media is a very common part of people’s day to day life, it still feels like a world of its own, that just waits to be discovered.”
The question is: are the social media platforms ready to deal with the problems and take appropriate action?