Unmask Twitter trolls so they can be banned from football matches, says Labour

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Twitter trolls who abuse sportsmen and women should be unmasked and identities handed over to governing bodies so they can be banned from attending matches, Labour has said.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, leading an Opposition Day Debate on discrimination in sport, hit out at social media companies for not doing more to tackle the issue.

She said “faceless accounts run by bullies in bedrooms sitting in their underpants” threaten to ruin the games we love.

They can only be identified by a police investigation but her party wants to see a system where this information is “sent to our sports governing bodies so that the offender can be banned from attending sporting matches and events”.

Dr Allin-Khan began by listing the positive side to sport but said there is “a worrying side”, which is “plaguing the game we love”.

She said: “In football if the abuse directed at players on pitches in this country and elsewhere is not stamped out it sends a worrying message to the next generation of stars and spectators.”

While “great strides have been made in the fight against racism in recent decades” the MP for Tooting said “we have seen a worrying trend in this last season” and “alarm bells are ringing”.

Citing the abuse suffered by England players in a match against Montenegro earlier this year, she said “there is a deep problem on our own soil as well”, pointing to the racism suffered by Danny Rose, Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha in recent months.

She said the respected former England women’s player Alex Scott has received sustained sexist abuse since she moved to being a television pundit.

“I myself, when I called out an incident of sexism aimed at a female BBC reporter, in one day alone I received 1,000 abusive tweets including one from a former footballer and pundit who still presents on the radio today,” she added.

“That pundit said ‘imagine being offended by it’ and then called me an expletive.”

Dr Allin-Khan listed other abusive massages, such as threatening to “give her a slap”, saying they still remain online, criticising Twitter for caring more about taking down copyrighted material than abuse.

She said of the messages she and other MPs get on social media: “When something hateful is directed at us the pain and fear runs deep. It’s personal, it’s disgusting and it’s wrong.

“But for our sportsmen and women who often carry millions more followers than your average MP this abuse is magnified, as is the pain that is felt.

“Faceless accounts run by bullies in bedrooms sitting in their underpants where an attacker can keep their anonymity posting vile replies to tweets.”

Chris Price
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