Player abuse: A serious matter

Please take a few minutes to read and engage with our campaign.

When we talk about player abuse what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Shouting at them pitch side to tell them to get on with the job? They are too slow? Overweight? Useless?
Pretty much all of the above is abuse and the Rugby Football League have brought out their ‘Respect’ video to give you an idea of how it can and does affect players. See the link below.
However, It goes a lot deeper than pitch side abuse we can reveal. We got in touch with a large number of players in Superleague and the Championship to see if they had been affected by abuse. Unfortunately a vast majority had. Of the 50 players and their partners we spoke to, 33 replied with stories of how they had received online and direct abuse.
Of those 33 replies, we can only print 7 due to the nature of what was said to the players from so called fans of the game.
Every single person we spoke to was promised 100% anonymity before they would tell us their story.
We need to kick this evil element out of our game.
We are hoping all clubs will adopt the ‘Kick it out’ campaign and deal with any reports that fans, players or staff report to them.
Huddersfield Giants were the first club to back this campaign. If any club, individual or organisation would like the PDF of our logo we have created, please drop us a direct message and we will forward it on for you to print and display at your ground.
Our feature is below. As we stated above, no person has or will be named to anybody at any point. Please do not waste your time asking if it is person X, Y, OR Z.
Rugby League, a game played by 13 players per side whose sole purpose is to hold onto an odd shaped ball and run from one end of a pitch to the other and ground the ball over the try line. In a vague way it’s a mix of football, British bulldogs, tig and wrestling.
A tough game played by elite athletes working as a team to either defend or attack and walk away after 80 minutes with two points for their respective club.
Hard, punishing tackles are put in on each other to stop them reaching their goal with injuries common place throughout the various leagues.
Having first started in Huddersfield in 1895 after splitting from the RFU over an issue with player payments, the game saw a huge rise in popularity over the next 100 years with crowds of over 100,000 at the 1953-54 challenge cup replay at Odsal in Bradford and over 98,000 in 1985 at the challenge cup final between Wigan Warriors and Hull FC.
As times moved on and with the birth of the internet, crowd attendances started to suffer. Information was becoming available online to those who couldn’t make it to games and TV deals saw games televised. You no longer had to wait for the newspaper to arrive the following day to find out results.
Once social media channels and YouTube were created in 2004/2005 it became even easier for fans to catch up on games and highlights they may have missed. Chat rooms and forums were formed where you could have discussions about teams, players and coaches. Heated debates were had over which team had the fastest winger, if a pass was forward or a ball grounded.
Clubs jumped onto the social media band wagon to post score results, new signings, club news, highlights etc but with this direct link to the clubs came issues. Fans of rugby league could openly comment and reply to posts as well as replying to other people. Clubs would tease new signings pre-season and post videos to get their fans excited for the year to come.
With the start of a new season comes fans expectations on where their team should finish the season. Excitement brews in the build up to the first game and which players they expect to run riot against the opposition.
Every year some teams will flourish and some will fall short of bringing the 2 points home. Those teams that get the win have fans jumping up and down with excitement at how good their squad is and will/ should be that season. However, for the clubs that make a few errors and don’t bring success to the club, we see and read the fans screaming about how player X was no good, lazy, disinterested, fat, slow etc. This is when internet forums start to become toxic and personal insults are aimed at some players and their families.
This year we have seen on a multitude of forums, club pages and various social media outlets some comments that most definitely wouldn’t be said in person to the players, families or their friends, but behind a screen they think it is acceptable. The bizarre part of all of this is when some of the people making these comments see their club’s player in the supermarket, town or out and about they suddenly forget their vile comments and think it is acceptable to ask for a selfie with the players or chat to them like they are an old friend, totally oblivious to the abusive comments they shared days before.
We have spoken to quite a few players and their partners from various clubs in Super League to get an idea of just how bad this problem is. The following comments are not just from one club or one set of fans but a wide selection of clubs and players. Some players have had personal insults about their current figure, their partners/ wives/ husbands and even children. How is this right?
All comments we have received have been edited if required to hide the name of the player and their families. Everybody we spoke to was told they would remain 100% anonymous regardless of who asked for details. This was the only sure-fire way they would speak out about how bad this problem is becoming and with a view to hopefully kicking it in to touch.
Player 1.
“I’ve’ had some evil comments posted on my insta and fb page about how this year I’m fat, slow, should have left the club years ago, a waste of space after a long recovery for an ankle issue. Insults about me I can shrug off, but I’ve had a few about my family too. How my wife looked like a **** after I posted a pic of us at a fancy dress party that was themed and how this so-called fan could show her a better time than I could, How one of my kids looked disabled in a pic on my wife’s page and should have been put down at birth. It’s not pleasant seeing those comments mate so thank you for trying to raise awareness of this issue.”
Player 2.
“Ah where to start…The standard abuse you get during games, wan*er gestures from away fans, jeering etc I can ignore. Think it was last year I really wanted to jump the barrier and lamp a bloke though when he thought it okay to hurl racist abuse every single time I ran past where he was sat. The fella was sat with a fair crowd too who thought his comments were amusing. I get crap on my Instagram account with the horrible things posted. Pretty much why I came off all social media. My wife has now locked all her accounts to private so it’s just family only. You don’t need that hassle.”
Partner 1.
“I think people forget these men are husbands, fathers, brothers, sons etc, they have a whole world outside of footy and they aren’t impenetrable or exempt from harm done by words.
People also need to understand that words said online and in the stands can be overheard/ seen by their kids and loved ones and it’s not nice. Yes, these men are professional players in a sport, but they are humans who have responsibilities outside.
It would stun me how many of the boys have spent all night holding a sick child, a fussy baby, been in hospital for a loved one and still strapped up their boots the next day to perform despite the night/ week/ days they have had. Boys have been with partners while they give birth and rock up to games hours later. It’s not to exempt them from their responsibilities as an employee but to bring light to all these men carry mentally and physically. So just be fkin kind.”
Partner 2.
“We know what we sign up to when we get in a relationship with these men but let me stress that this doesn’t give anyone the right to talk about our partners as they do.
‘Player name removed’, has had his fair share of hate and it reduced me to a bad place, I was angry and I private messaged ppl many times but had to delete it cause ‘Player name removed’ wouldn’t like that I reduced myself to that level.
I will also add, these men do not get time off once a partner or wife has a baby. There’s no 2 weeks paternity leave. ‘Player name removed’ left me hours after having a section because that’s his job.
Other stuff like they deserved to be sacked if they have a bad game. Have fans ever thought why all of a sudden they start to play off? These are tough men and maybe they have off days like everybody else? But fans assume they are okay to say they shouldn’t be paid. So we don’t have bills to pay or children to feed?”
Player 3.
“Mate, the **** I get from the stands is vile. If I have a great game, everyone wants a pic after the game. I love that part. Then there’s the ones who sent you messages, shouted abuse at you the week before also asking for pics and I’d love to say no but can’t as it could bring hassle back at the club. Nice one for raising it.”
Player 4.
“It’s 2024 but some fans think it’s still slave trade days where abuse at black people and players is okay. It isn’t and never has been. I don’t use social media anymore as I don’t need to read that crap.”
Player 5.
“I’ll never return to ‘Club name removed’ after the comments I received whilst playing there. Some of the so-called fans need to have a serious look at themselves and what they say.”
We could post many, many more of the replies we have had about the abuse players and family receive but we are sure you get the idea just from a selection of the above. The comments posted are also not the worst we have had sent through. When we started to chat to one or two players and their partners, we had no idea it was as bad as it currently is. As one player said, it’s 2024 and comments above are not acceptable at all. We 100% agree with them.
We would like to start a ‘Kick it into touch’ campaign where people think before posting hateful comments or screaming abuse at players on match day. Think, before hitting send, would you speak that way to your parents? To the players faces when not at a game? Would you speak to your boss that way and expect no comeback? No? Then let’s knock it on the head and think before speaking or posting.
Rugby is a great family sport but the more abuse that is hurled in stadiums, the more these families will stay away costing clubs money in the long run. Let’s get back to been a great family day out.
We aren’t saying there should be no banter, we aren’t saying that at all, however, there is a huge difference between lighthearted banter and direct racial and personal abuse. The latter has to stop before we have no games to attend as people stay away.
What would we like to happen? We would like people to report to the club or stewards if they witness vile abusive behaviour so that those responsible are dealt with. So the players and officials who are doing their job aren’t subject to racism and abusive threats.
We would love for the clubs to back the plan so we can hopefully start to welcome back families who have stayed away because of the above issues.
It’s Rugby league, it’s our passion and in our blood, let’s embrace it and enjoy it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Published On: May 31st, 2024