Social media boycott: Ex-Canaries join Archant in backing action

From L to R: Adrian Forbes, Matt Morton and Iwan Roberts, who have spoken about the fight against social media abuse

From L to R: Adrian Forbes, Matt Morton and Iwan Roberts, who have spoken about the fight against social media abuse - Credit: Archant/Thetford Town FC/Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Professional footballers will today unite in protest against vile online abuse by boycotting social media - and Archant is backing their efforts. 

Players and clubs across the men's and women's English game will stop using their accounts on platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for four days from 3pm on Friday afternoon.

The boycott will continue until 11.59pm on Monday, May 3, meaning it covers an entire weekend of footballing action.

Norwich City are among those taking part, even though they could clinch the Championship title on Saturday. 

Archant is lending its support by turning off its Pink Un social media channel for the duration, while the EDP, Norwich Evening News and our weekly titles will not post about football. 

However, our websites and matchday live feed will run as normal. 

City celebrate their promotion to the Premier League following the 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth.

Norwich City are taking part in the social media boycott, despite the face they could clinch the Championship title this weekend - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Adrian Forbes, who played for the Canaries between 1996 and 2001, called the need for such action in the 21st century "sad, devastating, disappointing and perplexing".

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He added: "It is the fact that, in this day and age, something so drastic is needed to highlight something that shouldn't need highlighting. 

"I'm concerned these social media companies are blind to it. If I am walking through Norwich, someone racially abuses me and the police hear it, they can take action.

"But the reality is, because people can hide behind profiles, no-one can be held accountable for their actions. Until then, we are fighting a losing battle."

Adrian Forbes. Picture: Archant

Adrian Forbes during his playing days at Norwich City

While Mr Forbes admitted footballers would always be criticised, he said race must be nowhere near the conversation.

"You enter sport to entertain and people will have an opinion, which they are entitled to," he said. 

"However, if I am a footballer and have a bad game, it is not because I am black. There is no scenario where a player should be targeted because of their colour."

Iwan Roberts, a former team-mate of Mr Forbes at Carrow Road, called the upcoming boycott a "step in the right direction". 

Iwan Roberts believes the Welsh can continue to enjoy their Euro ride.

Norwich City legend Iwan Roberts says he would not use Twitter if he were a professional player today - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

But the 52-year-old thought social media in its current form prevented footballers and other public figures from ever escaping abuse. 

"When I played you would get stick on the pitch, and there is always one idiot who wants to shout the worst thing," he said.

"But if I were still playing, there is no way I would be on Twitter. If you're not playing well, your own fans will abuse you; if you score, you'll get it from the opposition.

"It is a shame because social media is a great way for supporters to interact with their heroes, but it is a minority spoiling it for the rest."

Norwich City will be joining in a social media blackout over the weekend

Norwich City is joining the social media boycott in protest at online abuse - Credit: NCFC

And Mr Roberts believed little progress would be made unless tech companies and footballing authorities took serious action.

"Until the punishment fits the crime and people suffer the consequences of their actions, you just cannot see an end to it," he added.

"I don't think social media companies do anywhere near enough, and the people who run the game need to get their house in order."

The decision by footballing giants to switch off social media comes following a string of well-publicised episodes which have seen players targeted by abusers.

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool in action during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watf

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold has been subjected to racist abuse on social media in the past - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

As recently as this month, a trio of Liverpool players fell victim to racist abuse prior to the club's Champions League defeat against Real Madrid.

In July last year, a 12-year-old boy was arrested after sending racist messages to Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha on Instagram. 

While much of the motivation from a footballing perspective is stamping out racism, there is also a focus on eliminating homophobic language. 

Matt Morton, player-manager at Thetford Town, is one of the highest-profile active footballers in the English game to have come out as a gay man. 

New Thetford Town manager Matt Morton Picture: CLUB

Thetford Town FC player-manager Matt Morton - Credit: Archant

He believed the boycott was a useful starting point, but ultimately wanted to see concrete action. 

"These types of protests need to instigate change, and not just be 'events','" said Mr Morton.

"It's the same as taking a knee - if it phases out after the event, we have not achieved anything. 

"There is this old adage that, if you want the benefit of being a public figure, you cannot shy away from abuse. But nobody, regardless of whether you are in the public eye or not, should have to put up with it."