Arsenal Women are receiving the same online abuse training as the men’s team as part of the club’s new #StopOnlineAbuse campaign, in preparation for the greater exposure that will come with the new broadcast rights deal.
From next season, Women’s Super League games will be shown across Sky Sports and the BBC, putting players in the spotlight as never before.
“Everything that we’ve done with the men’s first team we’ve done exactly the same with the women’s first team,” said Arsenal’s CEO, Vinai Venkatesham. “So effectively, they know all of the tools that they have at their disposal through their personal accounts to try to block some of this abuse. They know that we’re there standing shoulder to shoulder with them to support them if they get any of this abuse.”
The campaign, launched this week, includes the creation of an Arsenal taskforce to give emotional and practical support to players. It was not triggered by one incident of abuse but by their increase in volume.
“We’re getting into this cycle and nothing is actually changing,” said Venkatesham. “We’re releasing these statements more and more regularly so it felt like we needed to do something, so really the genesis of this action plan is talking to our players – both in the women’s team and in the men’s team – about how they are feeling about it and how we can help them, and also speaking to our staff.”
Recent high-profile incidents of racism on social media have dominated the discussion, but targeting sexist, homophobic and other forms of abuse is also central to the campaign.
Arsenal are exploring how they tackle sexist comments in response to content from the club’s channels. “We all know the types of comments,” said Venkatesham. “We’re having a bit of a think about that; it’s a live discussion we’re having at the moment around what we do. We see it a lot and we see it in some other areas as well, for example whenever we’re showing support for Rainbow Laces and for Gay Gooners. The challenge of this topic is unfortunately there’s no easy answers”