Manchester City, Norwich and Brighton are the only Premier League clubs to have accepted an invitation to work with the police to try to stop online racism, the Guardian understands.
In July, the chief constable Mark Roberts, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football lead, wrote to all 92 clubs in the league pyramid to invite them to work with the force to address the problem.
The move came after heightened incidents of racist abuse suffered by players in recent seasons. After England lost the Euro 2020 final via a penalty shootout to Italy in July, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who all missed their attempts, were the targets of racist slurs via social media platforms.
Yet of the 92 clubs Roberts contacted, just 49 responded positively, with only three of them from the top flight – City, Norwich and Brighton.
“Only 49 have come back with a positive response saying they wish to engage. So far only eight clubs have facilitated us getting the officers, PFA [Professional Footballers’ Association] and Kick It Out [anti-discrimination body] in to speak to the players,” Roberts told Sky News.
“We hear all the slogans, we hear all the commitment. But when we try and take some positive steps to support players, support the clubs, we need a bit more than words sometimes.”
Roberts is disappointed that those clubs who did not respond in the affirmative are unwilling to be more proactive in helping their players and other staff members who may be affected. “If people know the options in advance and what support is open to them, then there’s a better chance of them knowing what to do and taking positive action,” he said.
Roberts is conscious that social media companies have sped up their response regarding any evidence supplied to the police. Last year, the process could have taken around six months; now it is a few days.
Roberts said: “We want to do this [end the abuse] but I think this is one of those examples where everyone says they are committed, says they want to tackle it, but then we give opportunities [and] it doesn’t happen. [It’s] a really disappointing take-up, and I think, candidly, the numbers speak for themselves.”
The Premier League stated it wanted its other 17 clubs to take up Roberts’s invitation.
“The Premier League is taking action against online abuse,” a spokesperson said. “Since 2019 we have been proactively monitoring social media platforms to report any abuse targeted at Premier League players, and have reported thousands of incidents to social media companies since.
“We also support players, managers and their families through our online abuse reporting system, working closely with the relevant police authorities throughout this process.”