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Rio Ferdinand Warns Football Is ‘Sliding Backwards’ Because Of Racist Abuse Online

Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion issued a lifetime ban to a man convicted of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers on social media

Former Manchester United and England star Rio Ferdinand says football is “sliding backwards”, and racism is being normalised because of the prevalence of racist abuse online.

The former England captain spoke to a joint parliamentary committee in London where he pointed out that he had seen family members “disintegrate” after being abused on social media.

“Self-esteem, your mental health is at risk,” Ferdinand said.

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Rio explained it was “disheartening” to see levels of racism in football rising to the levels of the 1970s and 80s.

He cited the abuse received by England players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after a penalty shootout defeat by Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

“When those three players missed those penalties, the first thing I thought was, let’s see what happens on social media,” Ferdinand said.

“I expected [the abuse] to happen.”

Anton and Rio during their playing days (©Darren Staples/Reuters)

On Wednesday, Ferdinand’s brother Anton spoke to the Home Affairs select committee, asking whether it would take a tragedy for social media companies to act on online racist abuse.

At that hearing, representatives of Twitter and Instagram argued they were attempting to address the issue.


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Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion issued a lifetime ban to a man convicted of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers on social media.

A 50-year-old male has been found guilty of an offence under the Communications Act, having posted a grossly offensive message on social media following the club’s Premier League fixture against Manchester City earlier this year.

The Baggies suspended the individual when the incident occurred on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, and have today issued a lifetime ban following the conclusion of a trial at Walsall Magistrates’ Court.

Romaine Sawyers was a target of racial abuse (©James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for WBA said:

“The club welcomes the guilty verdict and has issued a lifetime ban to the person in question.

“WBA has a proud history of fighting all forms of discrimination, and our message to supporters is clear; racism is wholly unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the club.

“We will continue to work with West Midlands Police to ensure all instances of racism, either at The Hawthorns or online, are reported. Anyone who is found guilty of such an offence will be banned from the club for life.

“Albion will continue to campaign for social media companies to take greater responsibility for the online hate published on their platforms.

“We would like to place on record our thanks to PC Stuart Ward, West Midlands Police’s Dedicated Football Hate Crime Officer, who worked with the club throughout the case.”


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