Cybersmile has teamed up with EE Hope United to tackle Homophobia online with the launch of GayVAR.
England international Joe Cole and comedian Tom Allen, GayVAR will identify online homophobic hate, demonstrating its wide-ranging negative impact, while refuting claims that it is merely ‘banter.’ The campaign will also raise much-needed funds for Cybersmile.
The launch of GayVAR comes as research commissioned by EE revealed almost three-quarters (71%) of Brits agree homophobia is a problem in football, which rises to nine in 10 (88%) among LGBTQ+ respondents. Nearly half (40%) believe that social media exacerbates the issue.
A quarter of those surveyed has witnessed online homophobic hate firsthand in the past two years. However, worryingly, despite its prevalence few speaks out against it; more than one in four (27%) witnesses to homophonic abuse took no action. Notably, the wider UK population is less likely to take action than respondents in the LGBTQ+ community if they witnessed hate (27% vs 21%), suggesting the need for more allyship from the wider UK population.
EE Hope United will be monitoring social media across three Premier League game weeks, with GayVAR content posted in response to specific moments that have been found to generate spikes in online homophobic abuse, such as bad individual player performances and losing games.
Inspired by pitch-side VAR (Video Assistant Referee), the content will look to highlight the nonsensical nature of homophobic abuse, encouraging fans to take a stand and call it out when they see it or experience it online.
Further members of the EE Hope United squad including Rio Ferdinand, Lucy Bronze and Andy Robertson will feature in a free online video content series, sharing digital skills to educate users on how to challenge and report online homophobic abuse.
As part of the initiative, Hope United shirts will be available to purchase with all proceeds going to Cybersmile in support of our mission for a truly inclusive internet where everybody feels free to learn, play, communicate and express themselves without fear. The Hope United shirts can be purchased here.