In Brief

‘Horrific’: 30% of sportswomen abused by social media trolls

BBC conducted survey with more than 500 elite British women sports stars

A study by BBC Sport has revealed that almost a third of elite British sportswomen have received online abuse by trolls on social media channels.

Comments on appearance and sexist remarks were a regular theme in answers from respondents who participated in the BBC Elite British Sportswomen’s Survey

One respondent said she considered quitting her sport after “horrific” online abuse following a poor performance while another was told she is “not really British”. Following a fall, a female jockey was told by a man that he “hoped the horse was ok and not you”.

Darts player Deta Hedman revealed that she had suffered racial abuse and was told: “hope you die of cancer”. 

The survey was sent out to 1,068 women in 39 different sports and received 537 responses. It is the third time the BBC has conducted the study, after previous editions in 2013 and 2015. 

In response to the survey, BBC Sport has also announced a new policy to tackle hate speech across its platforms. 

Reactions to the survey 

Tammy Parlour, chief executive of the Women’s Sport Trust

“We have seen a lot of positive momentum in women’s sport over the last five years, but this is a stark reminder that there is still so much more to be done. It’s crucial to see these results as symptoms of the wider system, understand what is creating this environment, and address the underlying causes.”

Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport 

“The past few years have seen fantastic progress with women's sport starting to get the profile it deserves. I was sent an image of a club crest full of ironing boards and told this was the team I should play for. However, it is absolutely unacceptable that this visibility has been matched by a rise in online abuse of our sports stars. We have set out world-leading plans that will make online platforms safer for users, and we will continue to engage with providers to see what more can be done.”

The survey in numbers

  • 160 (30%): have been trolled on social media (up from 14% in 2015) 
  • 86% (460): earn less than £30,000 per year from sport 
  • 36% (191): do not feel supported by their club/governing body to have a baby and continue to compete  
  • 20% (109): experienced or witnessed racism in their sport  
  • 65% (347): experienced sexism in their sport but only 10% (51) reported it  
  • 78%: are conscious of their body image

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