United Kingdom

Premier League clubs rally together as they get ready to launch social media blackout

Premier League clubs are set to launch a social media blackout at the start of next month as part of a war against online racism.

Plans are in place for what has been named football's 'Weekend of Action' on May 1 to May 3, which would see each top flight side's outlets go silent for a 24-hour period around their matches.

The proposals – seen by Sportsmail – have been drafted in the wake of a growing number of sickening incidents of racist abuse on social media of players in recent weeks.

The boycott would happen during 24-hour period around a club's game from May 1st-May 3rd 

The growing feeling among Premier League clubs is that a symbolic gesture is now needed

It can be revealed that the Premier League will stop its own social media content for the duration of the match round, which includes the fixture between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford. 

Clubs have been invited to then stop their own channels from midnight to midnight on their game days. Backing from the EFL and its clubs, the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association is also expected.

Top flight chief executive Richard Masters has already spoken to a number of sides about the prospect of a boycott, which was revealed by Sportsmail last week. He believes there is a growing consensus that such action is needed. 

However, clubs have been asked to confirm their support and whether they will proceed with a boycott by 2pm on Monday 19 April. Masters says a clear message will be sent out on club and social media channels that they wish to see action from the likes of Twitter and Instagram. 

Top-flight players, managers and officials have reported several cases of abuse this season

Messages aimed at educating supporters and calling for legislation changes will also be promoted. 'There would be no usual football content', Masters wrote in an email to clubs yesterday.

'Instead channels would be used to put pressure on the social media companies and drive awareness of the racist and other discriminatory abuse that we continue to see appear on the platforms'.

Players will be asked to show their backing for the boycott in the days leading up to the weekend. Centralised messaging and graphics will be given to clubs to use to ensure 'consistency of message'.

In his message, Masters acknowledged some clubs may wish to proceed in different ways which fit with their own existing approaches to the issues and anti-discriminations campaigns. 

Swansea City also conducted a week-long blackout of channels after Jamal Lowe was targeted

Rangers followed a similar boycott in response to abuse suffered by player Glen Kamara (L)

However, he added 'it is critical we have a collective commitment to the Weekend of Action'.

Meetings will be held early this week, with an announcement expected before Thursday. 

'Players, ex-players and other prominent football personalities from all backgrounds continue to get abuse and are asking for, and deserve, football-wide support to highlight the irresponsibility of the social media platforms which protect the abusers,' Masters wrote.

He added that the government are hosting a roundtable with social media companies an football stakeholders (including the Premier League) on Thursday. Lobbying over the Online Safety bill is intensifying, with an announcement expected in the Queen's Speech on May 11. 

Masters also disclosed that the Premier League will 'again be writing to social media companies next week with our proposed remedies, which we believe are well within their capabilities to introduce'.

'We believe a collective Weekend of Action, including a social media boycott, can be used to make a strong and well timed collective statement, educate fans and put further pressure on social media companies, highlighting the greater preventative measures required to stop online abuse occurring on their services,' Masters said.

Swansea City became the first club to boycott social media, imposing a self-imposed seven-day ban. North of the border, Rangers have done likewise. 

There are concerns among some over commercial issues and commitments and over whether a boycott will spark change. However, the growing feeling is that a symbolic course of action is needed.

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