As the Premier League tries its best to curb down discriminatory behaviour within the sport, a new study has revealed the sheer number of racial messages directed towards players like Mario Balotelli in the past months.
In a study released by the anti-discrimination organization Kick It Out, Liverpool’s Balotelli received more than 8000 abusive messages in social media this season, with half of these being racist. The study further revealed that the most number of abusive and racially discriminating messages came in during the Chelsea-Liverpool game in Jan. 21, where the Blues and the Reds drew 1-1.
Another incident when Balotelli received a large number of discriminatory responses was during the Manchester United-Leicester match earlier this season, where Balotelli tweeted “Man utd … LOL” after Manchester lost 5-3. The post immediately drew the ire of United supporters, which prompted an increase in the number of derogatory messages directed to the striker.
According to Kick It Out director Roisin Wood, the spikes can be attributed not only to Balotelli’s status as a player, but also to the way he uses social media. However, Wood also expressed his disbelief. “It is really shocking,” he lamented. “We knew there was an issue but even we were shocked by how many the players have received. For one player to have received over 8,000 abusive messages is phenomenally awful.”
Aside from Balotelli, his teammate Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck were also heavily targeted by discriminatory messages, with each receiving 1000 attacks. Overall, Kick It Out estimated more than 130,000 such messages that has been posted this season, with 39,000 being hurled against Premier league players.
Because of the increase, the organization has formed an expert group to handle the matter. “You cannot accept players getting that level of abuse so we want to bring this expert group together to see how we can address this,” Wood said.
“We don’t see the problem going away. Some of the perpetrators are young people and they need educating that you cannot sit in your room and abuse people like this. It is also an issue for the social media platforms and how they address this.”