‘Football social media boycott won’t stop racist abuse’

A local footballer who made national headlines when he was racially abused in a cup final says he is not confident that this weekend’s social media boycott by sports clubs and organisations will help to eradicate the issue.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 12:52 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 1:00 pm
Asfordby FC footballer Linford Harris on the ball EMN-210430-124812001

Linford Harris was playing for Wymeswold Reserves two years ago when he was sent off and the match was then abandoned after a supporter in the crowd shouted racist comments at him.

Linford was banned for six matches for his red card - which was subsequently increased to 10 - and he remains disgusted that no action was ever taken against the fan by Leicestershire FA or the police, despite an investigation taking place.

From 3pm today (Friday), Premier League football clubs, the English Football League and Women’s Super League will be joined by grassroots teams in not posting anything on their social media channels until 11.59am on Monday.

Linford Harris, who was racially abused during a cup final prompting his team to walk off in protest, pictured during an interview with Sky Sports in 2019 EMN-210430-124835001

The aim is tackle the racist abuse of players and get the message across that it is not acceptable.

But Linford told the Melton Times: “Personally I don’t think this boycott will have an effect.

“Nothing has changed, it’s got worse in the last few years.

“Until the big fines start coming in, and the proper punishments, that’s when it will stop.”

He believes the only action which will have an effect on reducing the level of abuse on social media is to make every user acccountable so they can’t post anonymously.

“I think people should have to send photographic ID or something, just to verify the person who is posting it,” said Linford, who now plays for Asfordby FC.

“We then have to hit them with a massive fine so it hurts them in the pocket if they make racial comments.”

Linford became disillusioned with the game that he has always loved following that cup final and the experience he endured.

But he is back playing now and enjoying his football.

“I haven’t had any abuse personally since I started playing again but it’s happened to a few of my mates playing Sunday league football,” he said.

Professional footballers began ‘taking the knee’ before matches to show solidarity in the fight against racism in the game.

But Linford doesn’t believe it will have a lasting effect and he believes players should receive proper punishments if they aim racist abuse at an opposition player.

He pointed out that a Slavia Prague player was handed a 10-match ban for racially abusing a black Rangers player in a recent European match and yet he would have got a more stricter penalty if he had taken a bet out on the outcome of the game.

Linford added: “Taking the knee was good to start with but fans started reacting to that on social media with racist comments because their players chose to do it.

“You can’t stop racist people out there because they are going to target anything they want.

“Taking the knee is a bit pointless to be honest.

“i think it’s all a bit of a lost cause at the minute unfortunately.”

Local football clubs and organisations have been Tweeting today that they will be taking part in the social media boycott in a bid to stop online abuse.

They include Holwell Sports FC, Holwell Sports Women FC, Asfordby FC, Bottesford FC and Leicestershire FA.