England’s World Cup squad received far fewer hateful messages than they were sent during last year’s European Championships. The Times have reported that there were 168 abusive social media posts all of which were on Twitter directed at players during the tournament in Qatar.

Eleven people were arrested after police examined 207 hateful messages and one teenager was sentenced to six weeks in jail after the abuse in 2021. Over the last few weeks, messages towards the England squad have mostly been positive and hopeful. 

This compares to last year’s European Championships, where there was around 3,000 alone in the hours after their penalty shoot-out loss to Italy in the final. A lot of the abuse in 2021 was thrown at Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were deluged with racist messages after missing penalties in the final.

However, Harry Kane, who missed a penalty in the quarter-final loss to France, was the most abused player in Qatar for the Three Lions. There was 88 tweets directed towards the England captain, with Ben White next with 23 after he left the tournament early for personal reasons.

During the Euro 2020 tournament, HateLab is said to have detected ‘tens of thousands of hateful tweets’ peaking at ‘920 an hour’ after the final. Professor Matthew Williams, the director of HateLab, said: ‘Compared with Euro 2020 we’re seeing very little racist, anti-black communications targeting the players. For the most part, the hopeful posts, very positive posts, dwarfed the amount of very negative and hateful posts.

The final player to get more than ten abusive tweets was Mason Mount on 11. The research was carried out by HateLab, a monitoring group at Cardiff University which used artificial intelligence to monitor Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan and the messaging service Telegram for posts that target players with either racist, homophobic or transphobic content. 

Williams said last year’s prosecutions may have played a part in the reduction in hateful messages. While Twitter now recognises the use of certain emojis as racial abuse.  He did though add: ‘I think part of the reason is, of course, there were no trigger events in the tournament, where a black player made a huge mistake.’

Rashford and Saka, who missed penalties in last year’s final, were England’s joint highest scorers in Qatar with three goals apiece – while Sancho was left out of the squad after struggling for form at Manchester United.

There was though some ‘anti-LGBTQ’ messages fuelled by the row over scrapped plans for Harry Kane to wear an armband in support of gay rights. England captain Kane missed a crucial penalty as the Three Lions were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 defeat.


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