A recent study uses social media to track discrimination and abuse in English soccer.
The last few years, European soccer has faced particular criticism and embarrassment due to its fan’s racist behavior. Racism in soccer has shown to be entrenched in all leagues at all degrees of competition, even at the youth level.
Kick It Out, an organization determined to end discrimination in soccer, published a report examining racism outside of the stadium, in social media.
Following various social media sites, Kick It Out recorded 134,400 posts of a discriminatory nature directed at Premier League teams or players. Keep in mind that it is of a discriminatory nature, not of a racist nature, as only 28% of those posts were ‘racist’. Twitter accounted for 88% of posts while Facebook accounted for 8%, with blogs and forums accounting for another 4%.
Chelsea and Liverpool received the most abusive messages, roughly 20,000 and 19,000 respectively with Arsenal receiving roughly 12,000 and Manchester United and Manchester City with 11,000 each, to round out the top five.
Mario Balotelli was heads above the rest when it came to attracting vitriol, receiving over 8,000 abusive posts, 52% of which were racist. This means that 1 in 10 racist tweets that went to EPL players or teams were targeted at Mario Balotelli.
Fucking hell, every other tweet mentioning Mario Balotelli is racist. Wow.
— Shivam Manghnani (@shivamLM) April 17, 2015
( my Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please)
— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) December 1, 2014
So what exactly do these findings tell us? Sadly not more than we already know. The combination of sports, drinking (presumably) and a platform to say whatever you think without consequence, once again proves to bring out the worst in people. What this study fails to show is the context of these tweets, as there is no research done evaluating non-abusive tweets sent out to EPL players or anything else. This comparative context is necessary for the study to carry scientific weight.
What these results do show is the ability to use new sources to take the temperature of race relations and other topics that are hard to find and identify good data on. Social media, for better or worse, can often give us more honest opinions from people, due to the fact that they’re held less accountable for what they say.
So perhaps more sociological studies will use social media as a source of data given its unique insight into people’s honest, and sometimes offensive, quick takes. You can check out the complete findings here.