English cricket and Premiership rugby will join the football-led sporting boycott of social media this weekend in a bid to force Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to tackle the issues of online racism and discrimination.
In cricket, from 3pm on Friday through to 11.59pm on bank holiday Monday all social media accounts across the sport – including players, the national teams, the 18 first-class counties and the eight regional women’s teams – will fall silent as part of a wider movement that will also include the Lawn Tennis Association.
Premiership Rugby also confirmed on Wednesday that its clubs would be boycotting platforms – a move backed by the Rugby Players’ Association. It had been unclear whether the Rugby Football Union would be joining the boycott but it is understood that, following further consultation with senior players, it is now planning to participate.
Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: “As a sport, we are united in our commitment to fight racism and we will not tolerate the kind of discriminatory abuse that has become so prevalent on social media platforms.
“Social media can play a very positive role in sport, widening its audience and connecting fans with their heroes in a way that was never possible before. However, players and supporters alike must be able to use these platforms safe in the knowledge they do not risk the prospect of facing appalling abuse.”
The ECB’s decision has been made in conjunction with the Professional Cricketers’ Association, with all international and domestic players to receive reminders of the boycott via text message and email before it is due to begin.
Rob Lynch, chief executive of the PCA, said: “Social media companies have to do more. Our members are often victims of horrific online abuse with little or no punishment for the perpetrators and this has to change.
“A unified silence from players and the wider game is a powerful stance to show that our members will not allow social media companies, which have brought so much benefit to the game, to continue to ignore and fail to prioritise the need for appropriate legislation in protecting people against online discriminatory behaviour.”
Wayne Morris, the chair of Premiership Rugby’s diversity and inclusion group, said: “Premiership Rugby is committed to tackling the major issues that sport and society are facing. These issues are important to the longer-term future of our sport, but equally have a major impact on the communities we operate in.”
The ECB is understood to have toyed with the idea of staging its own boycott of the big three social media platforms during the next England men’s fixture – the first Test against New Zealand on 2 June – in order to maximise its stance on the subject. But during talks this week it was agreed the best option was a show of solidarity with football’s boycott, with players and clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship all observing the silence.
The most noticeable difference cricket-wise will be the online coverage for the fourth round of fixtures in the County Championship that gets under way on Thursday, with the boycott starting midway through day two of the nine matches.
As well as score updates and plugs for their commercial partners, all 18 first-class counties use social media to circulate highlights. It also helps to drive followers through to the live streaming services that have vastly improved this season and proved a vital resource with spectators still locked out of grounds.
Speaking previously on the subject, the England seamer Stuart Broad cited the racist abuse suffered by teammate Jofra Archer last summer as reason enough why he and others in the dressing room would back such a move. Broad said: “There are great positives to social media but if we have to lose those positives for a period of time to make a stand then I’d be well up for that.”
It also follows criticism of English cricket in the most recent edition of Wisden, which accused the sport of having “lost its nerve” when the England men’s team stopped taking a knee for the Black Lives Matter movement midway through last season.