football

Arsenal chief issues severe warning over football's "biggest problem"


Arsenal CEO Vinai Venkatesham has labelled racist abuse on social media abuse as English football’s “biggest problem” in football.

The Gunner chief insists that its impact “cannot be underestimated.”

Venkatesham also added that online racism is becoming normalised, amid growing calls for enhanced regulation from the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

He added he is “worried about the path we are heading on” if progress is not made.

Speaking at Thursday’s Financial Times’ Business of Football summit, Venkatesham said: “The abuse of so many of our black footballers on social channels is probably and possibly the biggest problem we have in the game at the moment.

“Footballers, referees and officials are all human beings and have feelings like anybody else, and we really cannot underestimate the impact that social media abuse can have on an individual.



Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham

“Football, the players, and social media companies need to come together to solve this because this is a moment in time.

“If we don’t make positive progress I really, really worry about the path we are heading on.”

Last month the Premier League said the tech companies “need to do more”, calling for “swifter removal of offensive messages and improved identification and banning of offenders.”

Earlier this week, Instagram announced new measures to tackle online abuse.

But Venkatesham’s comments came on the same morning that Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah became the latest Premier League star to be racially abused on social media.

The England Under-21 international was abused on Twitter after posting a picture of himself in training.



Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah
The young striker was abused after posting a photo in training

Research earlier this week also showed that a number of Arsenal’s star names, including captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, long-serving full-back Hector Bellerin and former skipper Granit Xhaka, have all been subjected to racist and homophobic abuse by Twitter users – including season ticket holders at the Emirates Stadium.

Venkatesham added: “Of course we provide support, psychologists, all that type of stuff, but I don’t want to be providing support, and I don’t want to be writing another release saying how disgusted we are about players being abused on social media.

“This has to be a wake up call.

“It’s increasingly becoming normalised and in 2021 we can’t be having a conversation about it becoming normalised. I’m not saying it’s simple, easy with a silver bullet to solve it but players and social media companies need to come together.”

Venkatesham was also highly critical of the social media platforms for their potency when dealing with match footage in comparison to the issue of racism.

“It’s a moment in time and if we don’t make progress I worry about the path we’re heading on,” he continued. “We need the support of social media companies here. We can’t do it alone.

“How can you explain to a black footballer that if a piece of pirated content goes up on social media it is taken down within minutes, but that is not the same for racist abuse.

“I don’t know how you explain that?”

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