Football is the most popular sport in the world, arguably the most popular pastime in the world, with millions of people playing it and billions watching it. It is discussed and promoted across every form of social media. Online hate speech in football is a global concern, harming fans, players, coaches and media figures across the sport. A 2021 study commissioned by the English PFA revealed that 44% of players received abuse on Twitter and the volume of that abuse grew by almost half over the course of months.


The rise of hate speech in online discussions of football is a growing concern, with fans, players and officials subject to racist, sexist and homophobic abuse (in addition to many other prejudices) via the public forum of social media. While hate speech and discrimination have always been problems in football, the growth of social media has seen them exacerbated exponentially. As a consequence, policy makers, football governing bodies and grassroots anti-hate organisations are largely left playing catch-up with the rapidly shifting realm of online hate.  

While the issue of hate is one which concerns football at all levels, major international tournaments are particularly significant as sites where national, ethnic and gender identities are highlighted, debated and re-shaped across traditional and social media. The project will use the men’s and women’s European Championship tournaments from 2008-2022 as case studies, drawing from relevant Twitter data posted before, during and after the tournaments and analysing it for examples of how hate speech circulates and evolves. With this data, TOHIF will develop innovative strategies, workshops and policy recommendations to address the ever evolving problem of online hate in football.


TOHIF aims to address this issue with an innovative combination of state-of-the-art quantitative data analysis, nuanced qualitative critical analysis and grassroots activism against hate speech. The project will bring together a range of diverse expertise (data analysis, network building, interview skills, discourse analysis, etc.) and engage with all of the relevant stakeholders (player representatives, governing bodies, policy makers, social media platforms, fan organisations, etc.) in order to craft a genuinely effective response to the problem.


We are centred on framing, tracing and combatting online hate in football. Our work aims to create a bridge between state-of-the-art quantitative data analysis, nuanced qualitative critical analysis and grassroots activism against hate speech.

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