PMQs: Online racists to be banned from matches, but the government faces criticism for its stance on taking the knee

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Photo credit: Photograph taken by the official House of Commons photographer, Jessica Taylor.


Boris Johnson has promised that people who are found guilty of racially abusing players online will be banned from football matches.

Following the abuse directed at Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho after Sunday's final against Italy, and amid pressure to curtail the rise in online abuse faced by players, the Prime Minister said the government is, "taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed".

In a repeat of his sentiments shared on Monday, the Prime Minister once again condemned the abuse the players had received. “I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night,” he stated.

"What we're doing is today taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed, so that if you are guilty of racist abuse, then you will not be going to the match," he added.

"No ifs, no buts, no exceptions and no excuses."

Change in the works?

The Prime Minister also revealed that he had met representatives of leading social media giants with a view to providing legislation to address the matter. He said: "In addition to changing the football banning order regime, last night I met representatives of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and I made it absolutely clear to them that we will legislate to address this problem in the Online Harms Bill."

"And unless they get hate and racism off their platforms they will face fines amounting to 10 per cent of their global revenues - we all know they have the technology to do it."

The public's appetite to see a clampdown in online racist abuse has most recently been gauged by the heavily supported petition urging authorities to ban racists for life across football matches in England. It currently sits at over 1 million signatures.

We are calling for the Football Association and the government to work together now to ban all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life. Our England team stood up for all of us - now we must stand up for them.

Shaista, Amna, Huda - creators of the petition

Following Sunday's game, fans have responded to the abuse with shows of support for the players.

Hypocrisy on display

Despite his promise to address the matter, the Prime Minister and other senior government officials could not escape criticism for their role in 'stoking the fires' for the eventual abuse aimed at the players. Earlier in the week, England defender Tyrone Mings criticised Home Secretary Priti Patel for labelling the anti-racism message as 'gesture politics' prior to the tournament. After England's defeat, she would later express disgust at the abuse players had faced, a stance in which the England defender called out. 

Leader of the opposition Keir Starmer echoed the sentiments shared by Mings, but the Prime Minister was quick to sidestep the criticism, reiterating his support for the national team and pointing towards the Home Secretary's 'record' of providing routes for "Black and minority" officers into the police.

“She’s got this wrong, the whole county knows that, his own MPs know it.”

Keir Starmer, Labour leader

More scathing was the criticism from SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford. He highlighted the government's widely denounced race report, as well as racist remarks previously made by the Prime Minister himself, as only exacerbating present tensions.

“Mr Speaker wherever there is racism it falls on all of us to face it down and to call it out, and it is shameful that it took until last night for the Prime Minister to meet with the main social media companies and finally wake up to the fact that those who publish and promote vile racist online abuse need to be faced down and sanctioned.

“So can the Prime Minister tell us what sanctions would be appropriate for someone who publishes racist content, and it is shocking even having to say this out loud, describing Africans as flag waving piccaninnies with watermelon smiles?”

Ian Blackford, SNP

Mayowa Ayodele

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