Identify cricket’s cowardly Twitter and Facebook trolls and get them banned - Chris Waters

YORKSHIRE County Cricket Club was one of the many organisations, both sporting and general, which took part in the social media boycott last week in protest at online abuse and discrimination.

Target: Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale conducting catching practice before the start of play on the final day against Northamptonshire.
Target: Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale conducting catching practice before the start of play on the final day against Northamptonshire.

For three-and-a-bit days, the club’s various channels fell silent as the world of cricket showed solidarity with football in an attempt to encourage companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to do more to stop the pernicious spread of offensive posts.

Whether this had anything more than a superficial effect remains to be seen; without proper preventative measures such as the verification of otherwise anonymous accounts, backed up by legal consequences such as bans and sentences, the abuse will only start up again.

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Still, it was a powerful statement, one supported by all the first-class counties, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the eight women’s regional teams and the Professional Cricketers’ Association, and sent out the message that enough is enough.

Champion: Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale lifts the County Championship trophy following day four against Middlesex at Lord's in 2015.

Sadly for Yorkshire, the timing of the boycott meant that they were unable to relay, in real time, the unfolding drama of their one-run victory against Northants at Headingley.

It was just their second by that margin in Championship cricket – the other was against Middlesex at Bradford in 1976, when off-spinner Geoff Cope, 
the current Yorkshire CCC president, took five wickets in the second innings and 11 in the match.

But as this correspondent left the ground last Sunday, while not stopping to check his phone to catch up on what was not happening on Twitter, the thought that occurred was this: imagine the fall-out if Yorkshire had lost.

Imagine the abuse that would have ensued had the result gone the other way and if Northants had won.

Geoff Cope: Spun Yorkshire to one-run win.

As sure as eggs is eggs, there would have been a cascade of criticism towards Andrew Gale the county first-team coach and former captain, who seems to bear the brunt of the social media brickbats as far as Yorkshire are concerned.

For whenever Yorkshire lose a wicket, have a bad day or come off second best, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be fierce abuse of Gale on the club’s Twitter feed – more often than not accompanied by the hashtag #galeout

Of course, it is not my place to tell supporters what to think, or to deny them a voice that I have myself through the medium of this newspaper, and everyone is entitled to their view, but personal abuse is unacceptable and it would be a mistake to think that this problem is confined to football and does not occur in county cricket.

Indeed, the fine line between heartfelt criticism, to which everyone has a right, and personal abuse is crossed a little too often and Yorkshire would be entirely justified, in this opinion, in not only blocking such transgressors on Twitter but also banning them from the club/ground – assuming that they could be identified in the first place, which is part of the problem.

But the thing that really mystifies hereabouts is this: why is Gale subject to such abuse?

After all, Yorkshire may not have won the Championship since Gale captained them to back-to-back titles in 2014/2015, but surely that twin triumph entitles him to considerable respect among the fans?

He is the most successful Yorkshire captain of the modern era, after all, the most successful since Brian Close.

As a coach, he has not had the same tools to work with as Jason Gillespie, his predecessor, and Yorkshire have hardly fallen off a cliff in the subsequent years of transition.

In this judgement, it is simply unacceptable that a young and developing coach who has given so much to Yorkshire cricket – and cares so passionately about it – is targeted by cowardly trolls who would no sooner spout their bile to his face than they would face the Yorkshire fast bowler Duanne Olivier from 22 yards without wearing a helmet.

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