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Women’s Football England striker White excited about campaign to help tackle online sexism

ELLEN WHITE will again turn off her social media accounts this week ahead of the Women’s European Championship, but is hopeful a new campaign to tackle online sexism will help make a difference.

The 33-year-old is no stranger to ditching Twitter and Instagram before a major tournament having done the same for the Olympics last year and the 2019 World Cup.

White was among the best performers at both competitions, but it has not stopped her being on the receiving end of abuse on social media.

It is a similar story for men and women footballers up and down the country.

Telecoms firm EE has unveiled its Hope United 2022 side to tackle sexist hate online. The firm, which last week narrowly avoided strike action over pay despite a 95 per cent vote in favour because turnout at 49.7 per cent fell shy of anti-union laws, will hope the initiative will give it a progressive image.

“The nature of playing football, you do obviously get those comments that aren’t the nicest to see or witness,” White told the PA news agency.

“I get stuff like get back in the kitchen, basically that sort of thing.

“It is pretty old school stuff really that shouldn’t be out there and shouldn’t be said. There are ruder ones obviously but I will not go into that. That type of thing needs to stop on social media.

“For me, I try to not look at that but I know it can affect a lot of people and it isn’t nice to read. For my family and friends to read that as well, it can be quite hurtful so to try and alleviate that kind of abuse and what people are writing will be a positive from this campaign.”

Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses are one of the favourites to taste success in their home tournament over the next month but even a strong run to the final will not guarantee the squad stay clear of online abuse.

Several of England’s men faced hate on social media with Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford receiving racist messages online following their penalty shoot-out misses in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.

Manchester City striker White is pleased the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson have backed this campaign alongside Lucy Bronze with the fivesome set to appear in content that is aimed at teaching the nation the digital skills required to help combat sexist abuse on social media.

White added: “I felt so proud of that whole England team so for them to have faced what they did and to come out to speak about it shows that character.

“It goes both ways, we want to support them and they want to support us. It is not just always males doing social media abuse, there are females doing it as well. I think it is a real positive move that they are supporting us and we of course want to support them.

“Hopefully through this campaign we can really throw it into the spotlight and show we are sticking together, this isn’t OK and something needs to change and happen.

“We need more positivity and especially moving into the Euros and the men having the World Cup as well. It is a big year in general and we are all supporting each other on this movement.”

Gareth Southgate will manage the Hope United 2022 side, whose involvement in sharing digital skills will include featuring in videos over how to block accounts, report online hate in addition to muting and filtering offensive content.

EE commissioned a YouGov survey in April which revealed more than half of the 4,417 people from the UK public asked believe the internet is not a safe enough space for women while 60 per cent say not enough is being done to tackle misogyny online or offline.

“Women’s football is getting bigger,” White said. “With that will come more criticism, but we want the game to be more visible for everyone.

“Hopefully the positives outweigh the negatives but there needs to be some strategies in place if that negative or social media abuse does happen, because then something does need to happen to those people who are doing it.

“I am excited about this campaign, coming together with the male footballers as well is really important and hopefully it can be something that is positive.”

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