England manager Gareth Southgate has backed Thierry Henry’s decision to quit social media and asked his players to consider doing the same.
Former Arsenal striker Henry announced he was disabling his social media accounts this week because of the “toxic” atmosphere that has been allowed to manifest on these platforms due to the lack of action taken against racist abuse and bullying behaviour.
Southgate says he made “a conscious decision to come off social media” when he became England U21 boss in 2013 because “I didn’t want to be reading the sorts of messages that I knew would be landing in my box”.
Thierry Henry says he is quitting social media until online abuse is regulated “with the same vigour and ferocity” that copyright infringements are.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 26, 2021
The England boss has concerns about the impact these negative interactions are having on players, but ruled out banning his squad from using social media at this summer’s European Championships.
Asked about Henry’s decision to come off social media, Southgate said: “It seems that the companies in charge don’t seem to be controlling it at the moment, and therefore I can totally understand when people choose to come off those platforms.
“I think it’s something for all players, and all high-profile people who may receive that kind of negative attention to think about. It’s not just high-profiled people, there’ll be young kids who are getting bullied online.
“It’s something for everyone to think about: do you want to put yourself in that situation?
“When I’m in camp, I try to switch off from all the external media, which is not great for keeping up with what’s going on in the world. But the world is a happier place if I’m not getting that negativity.
“So I think that’s absolutely something for our players to consider.
“I think if you spoke to every manager in the country, I think one of their biggest concerns would be that the players go in the dressing room after a game and players are scrolling through their phones and it’s a vulnerable moment for people if they’ve just played a game, and they’re tired and fatigued.
“What voices are they listening to?”
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Southgate keen for players to speak up on Qatar 2022
Southgate has also encouraged his England players to voice their own opinions about the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar – as more nations begin to protest in support of migrant workers building stadiums for the tournament.
Germany’s players wore shirts displaying the message “HUMAN RIGHTS” prior to Thursday’s 3-0 win over Iceland, following on from a similar gesture by the Norway squad on Wednesday.
Southgate says the FA has been “working closely” with human rights group Amnesty International and is set to hold talks with Qatar ahead of the tournament.
“My understanding is that Amnesty don’t want the tournament postponed or moved, they want to work and highlight issues that maybe can be improved,” said Southgate. “It is important we work with organisations like that.
“I think when you’re involved with England you’re always going to be asked questions that are beyond football, and you can choose to duck those questions and say, ‘I’m only here to talk about the game’.
“But I think over the last five years I’ve tried not to do that. I think there’s been some important points to make and maybe some issues that we’ve helped to make a difference with.
“I would always encourage players to have their own view, we could differ on those views in certain areas, but I think we’ve got a mature environment, and we want well-rounded people who have an opinion.
“Of course what happens is we get asked an opinion, we give an honest, balanced answer and then we get slammed for suggesting that that players should be vaccinated or something like that.
“Maybe we would be better to keep our mouths shut at times, but I think we will keep doing what we’ve been doing and try and give you guys some stories to write.”
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