Albion step up support in campaign against online hate

'We have a zero tolerance approach to abuse and discrimination in all its forms,' says chief executive Paul Barber

By Paul Camillin • 16 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Paul Barber was speaking after the release of the Albion accounts for the 2019/20 season.

Brighton & Hove Albion chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber has reminded fans of the club's code of conduct, in light of the recent spate of abuse across social media platforms.

Last week the Premier League, The Football Association, EFL, WSL, Women's Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and Kick It Out co-signed a letter to social media companies to take firmer action against online hate and abuse.

Albion have also written to local media and fan websites, which offer online comment sections or message boards for fans to comment, asking for their support in the campaign against online hate.

The club has a zero-tolerance approach to online hate, abuse and discrimination in all its forms, and has warned individuals contemplating abusing others that the club will take the strongest action possible, through the courts if necessary, for anyone abusing others via the club's own platforms, or, where appropriate, where it exists on other platforms. 

Chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber explained, "Football has always been a game of opinions, and we want healthy debate and, where its due, constructive criticism - provided its reasonable and respectful. So, this is not about the club being averse to online criticism from our supporters. People are perfectly entitled to views that differ from the club. Historically, Albion fans have always done that with good grace and humour. 

"But views that are abusive, discriminatory, hateful, or bullying in any way are not acceptable. For context, last week alone around 100 abusive posts were removed, and users blocked and reported, for content they posted to the club's own official channels; while some of the emails that have come into the club across the season have also fallen foul of the rules. 

"Thankfully, most of the abuse we see doesn't come from our supporters, but that won't stop us from taking action. And there are those rare instances where our own followers fall foul of the rules and overstep the mark. Those individuals have paid the consequences, facing club sanctions and police action. 

"We are fortunate: most of our followers are good-minded people who are there to talk about football but it’s important for everyone to be aware that our club has a zero tolerance policy to anyone who abuses our players, staff or other supporters. Where posts are anonymous, we will use all available legal resources to identify perpetrators.

"Indeed, abuse, trolling and online hate of any nature won't be tolerated; social media needs to be a safe and secure platform for all to enjoy. On our own channels, users will be banned, reported to the platform owners, and reported to the police where they have broken the law. We fully expect other social media platforms to follow the same zero tolerance policy.

"For anyone thinking of posting anonymous hate content, I would point them to one overseas-based individual who anonymously abused one of our players and who has since been identified and reported to the local police for an offence that can lead to a prison sentence being served.

"We simply will not stand for this abuse. The social media giants must do more, but until they do, we are prepared to play our part by working with the Premier League and other authorities to identify and root out these individuals."