United Kingdom

Boss of troll hunting firm says Alex Scott is a 'prime target' for abuse

Trolls have cruelly targeted Alex Scott because she previously opened up about her mental health struggles with online abuse, the boss of a troll-hunting firm has said.

The former England footballer has suffered a verbal onslaught since being tipped to replace Sue Barker as the host of BBC game-show A Question Of Sport.

Thousands of ugly remarks about her race have marred the massive Twitter reaction to speculation of her appointment, which has not yet been confirmed.

Scott, 35, who is of Irish and Jamaican descent, has previously told of her dive into a 'dark place' after being horrifically trolled when she retired from the sport.

Philip Grindell, chief executive of Defuse, which helps protect high-profile figures from trolling, said these vulnerabilities have made Scott a 'prime target' for trolls.

Speaking to MailOnline, the security consultant also said Gary Lineker, a 'Marmite figure', would have inadvertently inflamed the trolling with his congratulatory tweet.

Trolls have cruelly targeted Alex Scott because she previously opened up about her mental health struggles with online abuse, the boss of a troll-hunting firm has said 

Philip Grindell, chief executive of Defuse, (right) which helps protect high-profile figures from trolling, said previously revealed vulnerabilities have made former footballer Scott (left) as 'prime target' for trolls

On why Scott has been so heavily bombarded with torrid abuse, he told MailOnline: 'One is that she's female and the type of targeting and the threats that have been made will be more personal.

'They will be unpleasant, and she has already declared her vulnerability to it so she is a prime target.'    

As part of the recent Heads Up campaign to extinguish the stigma of mental health in football, Scott revealed how trolling had taken a toll and led her to drink.

She said: 'I didn't tell anyone, I didn't tell my mum because I didn't want her to worry or put that stress on her. I was just that person (who thought) "I can look after myself, I can deal with stuff" but obviously sometimes that's the wrong way.

'I got to a dark place and it was over Christmas, that's when I was like "I can't carry on like this, it's not me, I need to seek help" and that led me into therapy.'

Thousands of ugly remarks about her race have marred the massive Twitter reaction to speculation of her appointment

As well as brazen racism, Mr Grindell also pointed to Lineker's tweet positively reacting to speculation of her as the front-runner to replace Barker.

The 59-year-old BBC pundit wrote on Twitter on Thursday: 'Congratulations and good luck to @AlexScott on being the new host for Question Of Sport. 

'Smart, knowledgeable and perfectly qualified for the role. Oh... and if you have a problem with Alex getting the job, you might just be part of the problem.'

Lineker, who was recently overtaken as the BBC's top earner by Radio host Zoe Ball, has attracted criticism for his political outbursts on social media.

Mr Grindell said: 'I think much of this has been sparked by Gary Lineker's tweet and he is a Marmite figure to many. 

Congratulations and good luck: Gary was accused of 'race-baiting' after he prematurely confirmed the news on Twitter and called out anyone who had a problem with the decision 

End of an era: Sue, 64, has been axed from the BBC show, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right) and Alex has been widely tipped to replace her

'The BBC are pushing to improve diversity, both in racial and female representation. 

'That's a positive thing, however there will always be those who disagree. The main issue is to ensure Alex Scott is kept safe and protected from any harm caused by trolling.' 

Former Strictly contestant Scott has been rumoured to become Barker's replacement after she was axed as host after 24 years, alongside team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell earlier this week. 

A BBC Spokesperson told MailOnline: 'This is all speculation, and no conversations have been made about the future line-up.'  

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