Gareth Southgate condemns racist abuse of England players as 'unforgivable' in wake of Euro 2020 penalty loss

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho have all face racial abuse online in the wake of England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final

Gareth Southgate has condemned the racist abuse directed at some of the England players as 'unforgivable' in the wake of the team’s defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Bukayo Saka Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, have all faced a swathe of racial abuse on the social media feeds after missing penalties in the shoot-out on Sunday (11 July) night.

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Bukayo Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate following defeat in the Euro 2020 Championship Final (Photo: Getty Images)
Bukayo Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate following defeat in the Euro 2020 Championship Final (Photo: Getty Images)

At a glance: 5 key points

- England manager Gareth Southgate described the racist online abuse directed at some of his players as “unforgivable”.

- The Football Association (FA) released a statement condemning the “disgusting behaviour” and has called on the government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation to prevent such abuse.

- Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the racist abuse as “appalling” and said the team deserve to be hailed as “heroes”, not subjected to hatred online.

- Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would back the police to hold those responsible accountable, while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden demanded that social media companies “up their game” to address the issue.

- Facebook, which also owns popular social media platform Instagram, said it tries to remove harmful content as quickly as possible and has encouraged people to use the tools it offers to report and block abuse.

What’s been said

England manager Gareth Southgate said for some of his player to be abused is “unforgivable”, adding that such abuse it not what the team stands for.

He said: “We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue.

“We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together. We heal together as a team now, and we’re there for them, and I know that 99 per cent of the public will be as well.

“Bukayo in particular has been an absolute star in this tournament, (he has shown) incredible maturity and the way he has played has brought a smile to so many people’s faces. He’s become such a popular member of the group and I know he has got everybody’s support.”

Arsenal has praised the performance of 19-year-old Saka throughout the tournament, saying it could not have been prouder of how he had represented both the club and his country.

However, the club said that its pride had quickly turned to sorrow after its player became the target of racial abuse in the wake of England’s defeat.

In a statement, the north London club said: “Bukayo has been with us since he was seven and the whole club couldn’t have been prouder to see him represent England throughout the tournament.

“Last night we witnessed the leadership and character we’ve always known and loved in Bukayo. However, this feeling of pride quickly turned to sorrow at the racist comments our young player was subjected to on his social media platforms after the final whistle.

“Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number of black players. This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.

“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.

“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”

Background

The FA has hit out at those who have sent abusive messages to the England players, saying such behaviour “is not welcome in following the team”.

It said it will be doing all that it can to support the players affected and is urging those responsible to face “the toughest punishments possible”.

In a statement, the FA said: “We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.

“Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”

Mr Dowden warned that severe financial penalties will be enforced under the new Online Safety Bill if social media platforms fail to do more to tackle the issue.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “I share the anger at appalling racist abuse of our heroic players.

“Social media companies need to up their game in addressing it and, if they fail to, our new Online Safety Bill will hold them to account with fines of up to 10 per cent of global revenue.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has said it removed comments and accounts from Instagram that directed abuse at England’s players on Sunday night, and will continue to take action against users who break its rules.

A company spokesperson said: ““In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.

“No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.”

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