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Real Scars: UEFA takes action to tackle online abuse

Wendie Renard, Jorginho and Alisha Lehmann join UEFA’s Respect campaign, kicking off at UEFA Women's EURO 2022.

Real Scars: UEFA's new Respect campaign

A new Respect programme kicks off at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 in England on 6 July including the "Real Scars" campaign.

Real Scars will highlight the devastating effects of online abuse directed at football players, coaches and officials across social media platforms and educate them on how best to defend themselves against such discrimination. The programme’s other pillars include a new platform to actively monitor, report and remedy cases of online abuse, in addition to the launch of an "Outraged" documentary series.

UEFA's Respect programme targets concrete actions to prevent abusive online behaviour and discrimination during all of its final competitions, including youth, women’s and men’s final matches for the next three years. To ensure that harmful content is removed, UEFA is working directly with major social media platforms such as Twitter, Meta [Instagram and Facebook] and TikTok.

The hard-hitting campaign video features Chelsea FC and Italy midfielder Jorginho, Olympique Lyonnais and France star Wendie Renard and Aston Villa FC and Switzerland player Alisha Lehmann, all of whom have suffered or witnessed abuse online. The video will be shown online and on giant screens at all UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 matches. The campaign will also be featured on perimeter boards and in match programmes during the tournament.

Renard says: "Online abuse can leave real scars, particularly if the people on the receiving end are already mentally fragile. When you say something on social media, you do not realise how painful it is or the consequences it can have. It can leave a mark because we are all human, we all have emotions."

Lehmann adds: "I think that online abuse is so much worse than in real life because hundreds of people say it. The people online are much less brave because they are behind a phone or a computer. In real life they would never say this to you. They would probably ask you, 'Can I have your shirt?' or 'Can I have an autograph?'"

Jorginho says: "Online abuse is horrible because people don’t think about what it can cause. It has an effect on you and the people who love you."

Michele Uva, UEFA’s Director of Football and Social Responsibility:

"UEFA wants to tackle online abuse by inspiring, activating and accelerating concrete action across European football. We are excited to kick off a dedicated programme at the UEFA Women’s EURO, aiming to create awareness, provide education, and monitor and report online abuse across all future UEFA competition finals.

"We cannot accept any form of abuse and discrimination in football. It is time for concrete actions to stop online abuse. This is a long-term programme through which we will leverage a new moderation technology across all key platforms. Shortly, we will also launch an Outraged documentary series, which will be focused on increasing attention on education to create awareness on the importance of this topic and to prevent abuse from happening."

Karen Carney shares her experience of social media abuse

Further players and officials, including Crystal Palace FC manager Patrick Vieira, former footballer and sports journalist Karen Carney, and Jesús Tomillero Benavente, the Spanish referee who retired due to online abuse, feature in a short documentary on online abuse as part of UEFA’s five-part Outraged series, which deals with discrimination and abuse. The documentary will be launched mid-tournament and will be made available online on UEFA.tv and via UEFA broadcasters.