Lianne Sanderson tells Home Affairs Committee more must be done to fight online abuse

Lianne Sanderson

Lianne Sanderson appeared as a witness at a Home Affairs Committee meeting examining online racist abuse towards footballers. 

On Wednesday, the ex-England international was named as part of a panel alongside fellow former professional footballers Anton Ferdinand and Marvin Sordell. 

Simone Pound, the Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Professional Footballers’ Association was also present on the panel.

The PFA has outlined the growing severity of online abuse, particularly racial discrimination. A reported 44 percent of Premier League footballers have been victim of such abuse, and there was a notable spike following the Euro 2020 final.

Racist abuse directed towards England players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho resulted in 11 arrests after the Three Lions were beaten by Italy.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho mural

A man has since been sentenced after pleading guilty to posting an abusive message about the English trio on Facebook.

A mural in Manchester of Rashford was also defaced with racist slurs after the England result but within hours, hundreds flocked to cover the graffiti with messages of love and support.

Marcus Rashford mural

Sanderson, a former Arsenal, Chelsea, and Juventus forward, has also been victim of discrimination and has taken to social media on numerous occasions to call for better responses from companies when dealing with online hate.

The 33-year-old has been subject to large amounts of racial, sexist and homophobic abuse. She spoke about her experience of discrimination in the House of Commons as evidence in the Online Abuse Inquiry.

"It [the abuse] did get better when everyone boycotted," Sanderson said at the Inquiry. "I joined that boycott because I'm all for coming together as opposed to dividing.

"At the end of the day, people are not born racist – it's learned behaviour. The problem that I have is that everybody can make these fake accounts time and time again. They can get reported and nothing is really done about it by the company."

Sanderson then said she feels she shouldn't have to remove herself from social media in order to make the abuse stop.

"I've done that before and it hasn't quite worked. I don't fully feel like there's the support out there that understands what it's like to walk a day in the life of somebody like myself or Anton [Ferdinand] or many other professional footballers, or anybody in the public eye."

A number of campaigns and movements have been introduced this year alone, including Hope United – a team of footballers both male and female who have experienced online hate.

The likes of Rashford, Lucy Bronze, and Lauren James amongst other stars of the sport are part of the Hope United team vying to make the change football is desperate to see.

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