Kick It Out boss Tony Burnett: Football culture must fundamentally change if discrimination is to end

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‘Toxic masculinity a problem in football’
Kick It Out’s chief executive Tony Burnett believes toxic masculinity is a problem in football and manifests itself in abuse towards players

The only way to end abuse is to fundamentally change football’s culture in a similar way to how fan-violence of the 1970s and ’80s was driven out, according to the new boss of Kick it Out.

Tony Burnett does not believe discrimination will ever be fully eradicated from the game, but insists that remains Kick It Out’s goal in an exclusive interview with 9jabase Sports News.

Full Q&A with Kick It Out boss Burnett

Full Q&A with Kick It Out boss Burnett

Read the full Q&A transcript as new Kick It Out boss Tony Burnett sits down with Sky Sports to discuss the fight against online abuse, discrimination and racism.

Burnett joined Kick It Out as their chief executive earlier this month having served in the West Midlands Police as their assistant director for diversity and inclusion.

Kick It Out is English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, and since 1997 has tasked itself with tackling all aspects of discrimination, inequality and exclusion in the game.

Following his arrival, Burnett has already identified three key areas in which he wants to focus; reporting incidents of discrimination, education and guidance, and talent development, so that more minority groups are represented and employed within football.

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Kick It Out’s chief executive Tony Burnett believes toxic masculinity is a problem in football and manifests itself in abuse towards players

In recent months, high-profile Premier League players such as Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea’s Reece James have been subjected to online racial abuse.

Burnett believes police resources are too stretched to deal properly with online hate, and mass boycotts of social media companies may be the answer, until they make users more accountable and more identifiable for the comments they make.

Responding directly to Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka’s comments online abuse “will kill football” unless it is rooted out, Burnett said: “Xhaka isn’t the first player to face abuse from his own supporters.

“I think we need to ask the question why right-minded people quite often think they can behave in ways, when they enter the sphere of football, that they wouldn’t comprehend in other areas of society, or in their workplace.

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‘Declaring info can deter social media abusers’
Kick It Out’s chief executive Tony Burnett says social media users being forced to declare personal information could deter potential abusers

“Football seems to create an environment where men of a certain disposition think it’s ok to be abusive. Toxic masculinity in football is a problem. Middle-class, educated men behaving in a way they wouldn’t even consider in any other walk of their life.

“The violence has been eradicated in football, but this hasn’t, and we can’t allow it to carry on.”

Burnett adds he believes the traditional aggression delivered from the stands towards the players on the pitch is key in understanding the roots of online hate.

“What happened to Xhaka is an example of that,” he said. “A crowd becoming a collective source of abuse, and it’s manifested in social media and in the ground. It’s not acceptable in normal life, why is that acceptable in football?

“We can’t resolve this alone, and we are working with all football’s stakeholders to try to eradicate it. There isn’t a simple solution.

“But we need a united voice that says this is wrong. Absolutely we have to put pressure on social media companies to take action against perpetrators and that they’re stopped.”

9jabase Sports unites against online hate
This is the message from 9jabase Sports presenters and reporters, who have united in supporting a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of online hate and abuse on social media

9jabase Sports is committed to making and our channels on social media platforms a place for comment and debate that is free of abuse, hate and profanity.

For more information, please

If you see a reply to 9jabase Sports posts and/or content with an expression of hate on the basis of race, colour, gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, age or class please copy the URL to the hateful post or screengrab it and email us

Kick It Out reporting racism

Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion organisation – working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices, and campaign for positive change.

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