Mikel Arteta says social media networks must take greater responsibility for online abuse of footballers and fears it is causing “a lot of damage” to the mental health of those on the receiving end.
Southampton’s Alex Jankewitz became the latest player to suffer racist abuse online since the middle of last week, with Chelsea’s Reece James and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford among other targets. West Midlands Police arrested a man on suspicion of racially abusing the West Brom midfielder Romaine Sawyers following their game against Manchester City. It is a recurring problem that has never been adequately dealt with and Arteta believes urgent action must be taken.
“There are all types of different abuses and I think it has to be eradicated completely,” he said. “I think social media has a big responsibility on that, because then you talk about the mental health of the players and public and how exposed they are. I am all open and I’m for people to have their opinions, but not just to be insulting people, abusing people and using a screen on a mobile phone to tell whatever you want to a person you don’t even know.
“That for me has to be eradicated, because it is causing a lot of damage in football and a lot of damage to public people. So I think we have to be really strong on that and I think [the media] as well have a big part to play to support us and the industry here.”
On Wednesday the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said he was prepared to “get tough” on social media platforms that do not stand up to their duty of care and that “criminal sanctions” could be imposed on senior management in extreme cases.