This Weekend’s Social Media Blackout

As you may be aware, this weekend will see a social media blackout, backed by the Premier League, EFL and a host of other organisations.

The FA, Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL, Kick It Out and the FSA will unite for a social media boycott from 3 pm on Friday until midnight on Monday. It is in response to the ongoing, unacceptable and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football. That includes the abhorrent racism aimed at players, but also the abuse received by the likes of commentator Michelle Owen in recent weeks. Sadly, it gets worse every week, with more instances, to a point where I don’t think a weekend has gone by in recent months where someone hasn’t been the victim of online abuse of some form.

Let me be clear: I do not think the blackout will make a difference to those perpetrating the abuse, nor the social media companies that facilitate it. Perhaps losing Liverpool, Manchester United and such like for a few days will be a bit of a hit, but fans will still talk on Twitter, post on Facebook and interact with Instagram. Life, sadly, will go on. The statement released recently by English football, published by the club, admits as much, saying: “Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.” These groups know that the action is about making a point, drawing a line in the sand and hopefully starting out on a journey towards a more regulated social media industry. I don’t think anybody expects the idiots behind the keyboards to stop what they’re doing, not for a second, but a much stricter regulation of social media is needed. At least English football is ensuring that it underlines its desire to see that change occur.

My understanding is that there will be no Match Day Live as a result, the club will not tweet minute-by-minute action from the game, there will be no MoM vote on Twitter. I would fully expect all the players to be behind it, and therefore, I have decided to do the same. From 3 pm Friday until midnight Monday, I will not post on social media under the Stacey West account, we will not release any YouTube videos, repost articles, comment or retweet anything at all. Whether or not I think the stand will make a difference is irrelevant, I believe as a respected fan-driven media outlet, we have a responsibility to join with the FSA, the club and all of the others to make a strong, succinct point. If I were to carry on as normal, trying to increase my reach in the absence of anything official, I would feel grubby. I understand that this site is often recognised by many as one of the leading Lincoln City fan sites, something that humbles me and the team behind the content, but it also comes with responsibility. In this instance, the responsibility is to show solidarity.

I will publish an article, a match report from the game on Saturday, but it will not be automatically shared on social media. Other than that, I will not post anything else. No news, no quizzes, nothing. as a news site, I feel a match report is acceptable, I’m sure the Echo will publish one, but that will be the extent of the potential engagement on the site until Monday. Once the clocks turn over to Tuesday, we’ll do the usual referee piece, Bubs’ gallery and the rest, but not a minute before.

I hope you understand the stance, and the reason behind it, and I hope it encourages us all to be better in calling out the behaviour that is becoming a toxin spreading through the veins of our beautiful game.