English soccer at breaking point over abuse on social media

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 file photo, Aadetailed view of the "No room for racism" badge on the shirt of Newcastle United's Callum Wilson during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Brighton at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England. The leaders of English soccer have asked the heads of Facebook and Instagram to show basic human decency by taking more robust action to eradicate racism and for users identities to be verified. There has been growing outrage that players from the Premier League to the Womens Super League have been targeted with abuse on Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram. (Alex Pantling /Pool via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 file photo, Aadetailed view of the "No room for racism" badge on the shirt of Newcastle United's Callum Wilson during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Brighton at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England. The leaders of English soccer have asked the heads of Facebook and Instagram to show basic human decency by taking more robust action to eradicate racism and for users identities to be verified. There has been growing outrage that players from the Premier League to the Womens Super League have been targeted with abuse on Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram. (Alex Pantling /Pool via AP, File)

Death threats. Racist abuse. Sexist slurs. And social media accounts allowed to stay active even after spreading bile.

English football has reached breaking point with players, coaches, referees and officials aghast at the ongoing proliferation of hate aimed at them on Instagram and Twitter.

A week that began with the Premier League's most high profile referee reporting threats of physical harm to police and more Black players targeted by racist users, drew a pledge by Instagram to clamp down on hate but undercut by leniency shown toward abusers.

It's why English football leaders have taken their concerns to the top of the social media giants, uniting for an unprecedented joint letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter counterpart Jack Dorsey that demands the platforms stop being “havens for abuse" by taking tougher action to eradicate the viciousness.

“Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach,” read the letter whose signatories included officials from the English Football Association, the Premier League, Women's Super League and the organizations representing players, managers and referees.

One of world football's leading anti-discrimination officials believes it could be time to log off until meaningful action is taken.

“What they probably need to do now is to have their own boycott,” said Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE network. "Can you imagine if Premier League clubs, even symbolically for one day this year called for a boycott of social media use by their fans, didn’t post anything for a day, and then kept doing that until the platforms showed some serious intent?

“Because there’s no question, although the issues in football are probably a scratch on the back of what Facebook is facing globally, if the level of engagement that football brings ... they just wouldn’t want to lose that.”