In Brief

Balotelli Twitter hate campaign is 'depressing but no surprise'

Liverpool striker has been sent 4,000 racist messages on social media so far this season

Research from anti-discrimination group Kick It Out has revealed that Mario Balotelli has received more than 4,000 racist messages via social media this season, with England strikers Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge also receiving more than 1,000 abusive massages in the past eight months.

It is, says David Conn in The Guardian, "profoundly depressing" that between August and March this season there have been 134,000 discriminatory football-related posts that are "racist, homophobic, sexist and... possibly amounting to hate crime". The initial reaction may be one of "basic despair" he says, but we should "probably not be shocked".

The internet offers anonymity, he says, and "social media, with all its blessings, entertainments and miraculous global connectedness, further boosts the profile and status of footballers and celebrities but is a vehicle too for the amplification of hate and nastiness".

It is an ongoing issue in the game, notes the Daily Mail, and efforts to deal with it have so far failed. "Social media, in particular Twitter, has been a constant problem for football clubs since it grew in popularity, with Premier League stars and clubs having millions of followers. Manchester United tried to ban Twitter among their players in 2010 to little success."

Kick It Out's research was carried out by social media management agency Tempero and analytics firm Brandwatch, and looked at the specific cases of Balotelli, Welbeck and Sturridge.

The results have promoted Kick It Out to set up an expert panel, but what can they do to combat the problem?

"They will have to consider, along with all the technological arcs of modern life, whether there is something specific to football, its tribal allegiance, conduct and high stakes, which is also at the root of some of this hatred," says Conn.

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