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England legend Lianne Sanderson says Super League row proves football could stamp out hate

Maggie Baska April 27, 2021
Lianne Sanderson England football (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Lianne Sanderson looks on during the FIFA Womens's World Cup match between England and Colombia on 17 June 2015 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

England football legend Lianne Sanderson thinks the sport could easily “stamp out” abuse after fans were able to cancel Super League “within two days”.

Sanderson, who is a lesbian, has been a long-time advocate for greater equality across society including for women and the LGBT+ community and is taking part in a sport-wide four-day social media boycott to highlight online abuse. But she said that her activism has come at the price of continuously receiving unsolicited homophobic and misogynistic abuse from “keyboard warriors”.

In an interview with Sky Sports News, the England international player opened up about being abused online. She said it seemed as if the pandemic and lockdowns have encouraged “keyboard warriors” to get “behind their keyboards even more”.

“People forget because we’re in the public eye, but we are still human,” Sanderson said. “They might say, ‘just turn a blind eye, don’t look at it’ – but once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it.”

She told Sky Sports News that shows of solidarity like this weekend’s – whether it’s fans or professional brands – could inspire more change in how others treat people in the public eye. Sanderson even used the recent announcement of the European Super League (ESL) and its subsequent collapse as an example of what can happen if people band together.

She said: “It seems like if you hurt people in their pockets when it comes to finances, that’s the only way you can do it.

“Look at the Super League. Within two days, football was able to stamp that out because of the fans and the pundits.

“For footballers to have to play the game that we love and get abused while they’re doing it, it is absolutely shocking. Hopefully, this can make a change – but the conversation needs to continue.”

The ESL was a proposed annual club football competition comprising 20 teams. This league would comprise 15 “founding clubs” – permanent participants – alongside five other European football clubs who could qualify for the competition annually. The BBC announced that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham were among 12 clubs to agree to join the ESL.

However, the ESL was widely condemned by fans, football clubs and even the world governing body Fifa, which said it would not recognise such a competition. Fifa also said any player involved in ESL could be denied the chance to play at a World Cup.

All six Premier league sides – United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham – withdrew from the ESL plans on 20 April after the criticism and protests from fans.

Sanderson has recently shared some of the vile, homophobic and racist messages she has received on Instagram. In a post on Twitter, she shared some of the messages she received, adding “try waking up to this”.

 

More: football

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