Firstly, what exactly is happening?
Reading Football Club will be joining in with a social media switch off across the whole English football landscape, which will see us refrain from posting on our social media channels between 3pm on Friday 30th April and 11.59pm on Monday 3rd May 2021.
This coordinated effort is a unified reaction to a series of wholly unacceptable incidents of abuse which have arisen recently across various social media platforms. That regrettably includes one appalling incident which was directed towards our club captain Liam Moore earlier this month. One incident of this nature is too many, and this was sadly one of many comments which have been aimed at professional footballers in recent weeks and months.
Coming away from social media for a weekend isn’t something that we are taking lightly. Over the course of the last decade, social media has completely revolutionised the way that supporters, players and clubs engage with each other. In general, it has been a good thing for football. Social media has rebuilt a connection between the star players and the fans in the stand, broken down barriers that have enabled clubs to bring excellent coverage and instantaneous communication to supporters – and it has also meant that we can hear your voice more than ever…listen to our fans and work hard to deliver a better service to loyal Royals.
It is a joy and privilege to connect with our fans in this way, but a privilege we are revoking for a few days. We are proud to have built a valued core of supporters who follow our every move and mention via a variety of social media platforms, fans who want the best for our club and the players who represent the crest on their chest…and then, a very, very small minority who just want to do damage. We’ll be back on Tuesday morning to talk to our fans as normal, so this is not letting those few individuals win, bowing to pressure from those who choose to abuse others on social media.
We want to use these three days to stand in unison with other clubs, players and football supporters in this coordinated movement, trying to trigger change.
What is acceptable?
Most of you know.
We know that passions run high in football. And all our fans demand high standards on the pitch. Our team and our club comprise of people – it motivates us all to hear encouragement when things don’t break our way, not criticism… but we completely accept that supporters are entitled to their opinions and have the right to express them, to engage with other fans, to disagree with decisions and hold us to account.
But abuse is not acceptable, Comments like we witnessed after our defeat at Watford last Friday night are deplorable and have no base in football nor being a football supporter. The incident was reported to the EFL, Twitter, Kick It Out and the police and, while it is not a simple task to identify those hiding behind social media anonymity, we hope we can establish where this appalling comment came from.
What can I do when I see abuse?
The advantage of social media it is social. So we can all do our bit to silence these comments.
When you see it, report it. Primarily, it should be reported to the social media platforms on which it occurs, who will take action. If appropriate, report it to the club (firstname.lastname@example.org) or indeed to Thames Valley Police. It is difficult to identify people who post anonymously, but not impossible.
Our advice is also: don’t give it any oxygen. We totally understand that you want to show your indignation, to call it out… but trolls thrive on a bite and the perpetrators often want nothing more than attention. Prove to them that they’re wasting their time – report it, let them face the consequences and deny them their moment of infamy.
Collectively, we have a duty to tackle this. This is Reading Football Club – it’s your club, and our fans have the power to uphold the excellent reputation our supporter base carries with it up and down the country. The responsibility shouldn’t fall on the other supporters to take action, but we can’t stand by and watch it continue to happen.
What will this blackout achieve?
Why do we, at Reading Football Club, support this blackout? Is it going to eradicate racism, cure discrimination, stop abuse, prevent intolerance and turn the social media platforms into a safe, warm, welcoming environment for everyone? No. Not on its own…and not overnight.
But we hope that it can help to achieve the following things:
- Show unwavering support for our players and all those subjected to this unacceptable abuse.
- Demonstrate our collective stance and solidarity in the message that online abuse will not be tolerated, making it clear to perpetrators that there are real-life consequences to their actions and educating those that send illegal abusive messages of the harm their comments cause.
- Use our collective voice to create and lead a conversation which can put pressure on social companies to take action and ensure they can provide a safer environment for every one of their users.
- Alert the overwhelming majority of supporters to the actions they can take when they see offensive comments in reporting the incidents instinctively and effectively.
- Remind all of our fans, by its temporary absence, what a privilege social media access is for all of us in the context of following a football club – hopefully our genuine supporters understand why we are taking this stance for just 72 hours.
- Remind ourselves that we too can do better – as a club, we know we can always do more and should lead the way in proactively making a change on our players and our supporters’ behalf.
Enough. Is. Enough.