Project Details


Tackling Online Hate in Football (TOHIF) is an online social media analysis of comments made during the European Championships and Football World Cups (both men and women’s) to assess the nature and extent of online abuse, notably xenophobia and racism.

We have identified key milestones such as the Irish debt crisis in 2008, and the Brexit referendum, plus potential discussions on Scottish Nationalism.

TOHIF, is centred on framing, tracing and combating online hate in football. Media are important ideological vehicles and critical agents in the commercialisation of sports, such that, today, sports events and media are intimately connected. Football is the most popular sport in the world in terms of both viewership and participation and increasingly, football consumption (i.e. watching, reading and discussing), takes place in online spaces. Online practices and experiences have the potential to shape and influence our perceptions of matters concerning racism, sexism and sectarianism. Football has long been an influential lens in which political, economic, cultural and social issues have played out locally, nationally and internationally. Consequently, by analysing football fans' digital conversations, reactions and behaviours we are able to critically gauge an influential context in which such ideologies of hate grow, how and where this happens, the characteristics of the hate speech and those who express it. Importantly, by understanding this, we can develop strategies in which to combat online hate.

The men's and women's European Football Championships, 2008-2022 have been selected as the site in which to explore TOHIF's research aims and objectives. This is because of the significant media attention these events have received, encompassing the emergence of social media and a period of rapid economic, political and cultural transformation in Europe. International football events act as a focus for nationalist sentiments, providing citizens with opportunities to come together in a visible, collective expression of 'who we are', in opposition to an equally important, but denigrated 'who we are not'. Large football events such as European Football Championships are important platforms for the symbolic expressions of nationalism. However, research indicates that such expressions can spill over into xenophobia, intolerance and violence towards opposing fans and can act as a catalyst for conflict - views which are increasingly articulated online. In short, any study of identity, nationhood and belonging that does not involve sport is a study out of focus.

TOHIF will create a bridge between state-of-the-art quantitative data analysis, nuanced qualitative critical analysis and grassroots activism against hate speech. It will draw on the expertise of the TOHIF team and the wide networks and
experience of anti-hate organisations to equip different stakeholders with in-depth, innovative strategies for combating evolving hate speech. The longitudinal nature of the research allows for a rigorous analysis of the interconnections
between social media, online hate and football and of ways to redress this through working with key stakeholders. Specifically, this will involve the development of systematic literature reviews on the topics of national identity and football, racism and football, sectarianism and football, sexism and football and social media communication and football.

Furthermore, a critical discourse analysis on selected instances of football-related hate speech on Twitter will be paired with descriptive, content and network analysis of eight European Football Championships between 2008 and 2022. Importantly, such qualitative and quantitative analysis will be paired with data obtained from interviewing members of partner organisations committed to race equality, social justice and stamping out online hate. We will work with partners to develop educational workshops, policies and specific machine learning procedures in which to identify and combat online hate on social media. Such initiatives and academic outputs will be disseminated with the goal of benefiting a wide number of stakeholders in a sustainable way including but not limited to social media companies, fans, football clubs/players, policymakers and anti-hate organisations/campaigns.
Effective start/end date1/08/2131/07/24


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