Both Arsenal and Leeds United have released statements which ‘condemn’ the ‘vile abuse’ subjected to Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski following the 0-0 draw between the clubs at Elland Road.
Pepe was sent off after ‘headbutting’ Alioski in the face after a protracted tussle between the two during a phase of play moments prior. Off the ball, the pair were seen pushing each other, Pepe received the ball and was tackled by the Macedonian. The Ivorian then approached Alioski and was seen to lean his head into the face of the Leeds full-back.
Anthony Taylor missed the action but after consultation with the VAR monitor, Taylor brandished Pepe a straight red. Although the Gunners didn’t lose the game, their attacking elements were hindered by the lack of numbers in the final third despite having their best chances after Pepe left the field of play.
The statement on the Arsenal website read:
‘We utterly condemn the vile abuse directed at Nicolas Pepe and Ezgjan Alioski on social media following our match against Leeds United.
This is completely unacceptable and we will be working with the police and authorities to do everything we can to trace and prosecute the culprits.’
Time for change
For too long, individuals have been able to use social media anonymously to throw vile abuse towards any individual of their choosing. Twitter is one of the most popular forms of social media in the world and specifically its synergy with the world of sport leads to these incidents occurring.
Twitter requires a user to sign up with an email address in its current state. But with there being no formal identification or verification process on the app, individuals can create fake, anonymous and parody accounts without a problem.
This makes it very difficult to identify those who have sent abuse in the way of public figures in the case of Alioski and Pepe.
This again leaves many asking for social media to begin requiring verification of identity before being able to sign up for its use. This would mean the use of passports, driving licences etc to be verified before accounts can be used with a legitimate phone number attached.
The counter argument is that the information regarding identity could be stolen but that would be on the platform to securely verify identity. The level of abuse which is seen every day is already, and has been for a significant period, too much for action not to happen.