Fan’s View | Online Player Abuse Needs Greater Punishment
Abuse on social media is spiralling out of control and football fans are, shamefully, playing a big part in it. Simon Phillips believes more needs to be done.

As a keen Chelsea supporter for over 30 years, I will be the first to hold my hands up and admit to offering up my criticism to players and managers over the years – after all, this is all part of being a fan and following the beautiful game.

These types of debates, like who is the better player or where said player should be playing, are historical in the game. Before it would be debates over a cold pint in the local pub, but now they have expanded to online social platforms, which is great.

Nothing beats a good healthy debate about football as a fan, it’s natural. 

However, there’s a line, and it’s been crossed far too often since social media made its way into the mainstream. There’s a fine line between saying you don’t think a player is good enough, and insulting the player personally or, even worse, abusing and bullying family members.

No player deserves to have their and their family’s lives ruined just because certain people don’t think they are playing very well.

Personally, I will support and back whomever is out there representing my club, despite any personal feelings I may carry. This, to me, is just part of being a supporter. 

No matter how frustrating things get – and I have cursed many a time after poor player performances or losing matches – I have, and never will, take it as far as hounding players and constantly abusing them and their family, which is now happening all too often.

The media has always been on the player's backs. That’s nothing new. They will fuel the fans’ emotions in many ways, which then transpires into another level of anger and abuse directed at players of the club that these fans ‘allegedly support. 

This has effects on people. As we often see publicly with many celebrities and public figures. The players read the revolting things written about them; they are human-beings with the same emotions as me and you – this will mentally affect them. And for what? Simply doing their jobs? I mean, they haven’t committed murder, it’s not that big.

No player deserves to have their and their family’s lives ruined just because certain people don’t think they are playing very well.

Chelsea have experienced it a lot in recent years. Players like Willian, Mason Mount, and even Callum Hudson-Odoi this season have been on the wrong end of abusive criticism and insults directed at them and their families. 

No one wants football to lose its passion, but fans’ negative emotions must be tempered

It is quite simply inexcusable. All fans get frustrated, but why abuse? Why personally attack these players? You have no idea what they are thinking, what they are dealing with themselves, how they might react to seeing online abuse about themselves. 

It can turn even the most mentally stable individuals suicidal. THAT is how serious this is. The only way it can be stopped is if it’s policed in the same way it would be if you did it publicly, face-to-face.

There are laws in place that make it illegal to go up to someone and threaten their Mother in the street, or use abusive language towards them…so why is it okay to do it online, often behind a private profile?

All profiles on social media should be personally verified, or else you shouldn’t be allowed to use it. All IP addresses should be monitored and allowed only one profile per address. 

Anyone who decides to abuse, troll, or bully online should get the same criminal response from the authorities as they would if they did it publicly in person. And it should be up to the individual social media platforms to enforce this.

Until then, it will only get worse, and it will only continue to damage thousands more lives.