Leeds United manager and Sheffield Wednesday defender among those calling for end to social media abuse

At the end of a week which saw a referee’s family receive death threats, Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa has called on everyone in football to protect those involved from the more extreme criticism which has reared its ugly head in the past fortnight.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa. (Picture: Michael Regan/PA Wire)

The most shocking example was the death threats to referee Mike Dean for sending Thomas Soucek off at the end of West Ham United’s 0-0 draw with Fulham.

It was by no means the only one, though, with a string of black players singled out for social media abuse after errors or below-par performances.

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Bielsa is admirable for his refusal to criticise referees, and often goes to great lengths to be even-handed in the media, so it was no surprise the Argentinian was a voice of reason.

Sheffield Wednesday's Chey Dunkley. (Picture: Steve Ellis)

“All of us who work in football have to work so that nobody who is part of the spectacle is singled out excessively, and referees especially, but the other people involved also,” he said.

“On social media, I can’t have a say. If I had to explain anything about it I would be embarrassed because I don’t know anything about it.”

Doncaster Rovers striker Omar Bogle has been on the wrong end of social media abuse, and said: “It gives everybody a platform to have a voice and be accessible and I feel like people take advantage of that.

“Some of the abuse players and Mike Dean get, I just think it’s crazy. I’ve had abuse online as well and it goes outside of the game.

“All social media does is just give a platform for these people to spout what they spout. It comes from before that so we have to address that first before we can eradicate this problem.”

Sheffield Wednesday centre-back Chey Dunkley said of the death threats to Dean – something former Owls and Sheffield United manager Steve Bruce said he has had from Newcastle United “fans” – “He’s a part of our sport, and we understand that they have to make big decisions. Sometimes they get it wrong, but that’s just human nature.

“We don’t need to go down the avenue where people cause distress and mess about with someone’s well-being. It’s a sport, it’s entertainment. It should never be about violence or causing anybody distress.”

Bradford City’s Niall Canavan shares Dunkley’s view that social media companies should require users to provide identification as a means of enforcing accountability, and says even though he does not use the platforms, he is sad for team-mates who have faced abuse on it.

“Twitter for me is just pointless,” said the defender. “I understand social media’s good for certain things, raising awareness for businesses and projects but for me it’s just a bit of an energy-sapper.

“You can’t get out to football matches and shout what you want at the moment so instead people put it on there. You can’t turn a blind eye to it because it’s printed whereas in the crowd if someone says something a bit untoward it won’t get brought up.

“I’ve played with lads who have had to deactivate accounts and it’s sad because you don’t know any of these people and if you walked past them in the street they wouldn’t say it to you.”

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