By Georgina Worth

When I was abused online following an A-League Women’s match in December, it was an unpleasant reminder of the toxic side of social media.

We’d just played Perth Glory and during and after that game an individual with an anonymous Instagram account sent me a series of abusive direct messages about my performance.

It landed in my filtered direct messages on IG, but I had an urge to see who was contacting me and what they had to say.

It’s the first time I have had online abuse directed at me and it was eye-opening.

The commentary was abusive, aggressive and included a death wish directed at me and my family.

The final message ended with a sexist ‘wash the dishes and raise a child’ comment, suggesting that women have no place on the football pitch.

I had a bit of a mixed reaction initially. Part of me thought “someone has taken time out of their day to send me abuse, which is really quite pathetic”.

But as much as I wanted to brush it off and make light of it, a part of me questioned whether what they said about my performance was true.

Instead of internalising it, I took action. 

The first thing I did was take a screen shot, posted it to my Instagram story and tagged the PFA with the hashtag #CallItOut.

I knew that was a campaign that the PFA had been running and I decided to share it online to show that when this abuse happens, it’s not acceptable.

I wanted to make sure I called it out and did my part to raise awareness.

The PFA immediately got in touch and offered wellbeing support and also directed me to various resources available, through the eSafety Office and GoBubble.

Football Australia also walked me through their Member Protection Framework and how to submit a report as well. 

It was heartening to know that there are multiple different avenues for players to go to when they are abused online.

My learning from the whole situation was to be proactive.

I could have internalised those hurtful messages – but I decided to call it out, using the resources available.

I think going through the process it made it clear to me that we have control over what we do, and how we respond.

We have the power to call it out and change others’ behaviour.

That’s not to say any abuse online acceptable.

Social media companies can, and should, do more to protect players. 

But we can also step up in the absence of those companies and be the real leaders.

PFA Member Resources

How to activate GoBubble

GoBubble’s technology amplifies the positive and silences abusive, derogatory, harmful or offensive content on your social channels. All costs have been fully covered for PFA Members, through the partnership between the PFA and A-League.

To activate GoBubble, please contact your PFA Player Development Manager who will provide you with specific details.

Additional Resources

eSafety Commissioner

The PFA has worked closely with the Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner on extending online safety beyond direct abuse. The eSafety Commissioner can assist with online threats, intimidation, harassment and image-based abuse.

Visit eSafety for more information:

PFA Abuse Reporting Service

The PFA has its own online reporting form for members who wish to report abuse of any form:

PFA Mental Health Referral Network

PFA Members have access to a variety of wellbeing programs and services designed to provide critical support in times of need but also to assist them in dealing with the demands of professional sport both on and off the pitch.

If online abuse has affected you and you wish to access the PFA’s counselling or psychological services please contact your Player Development Manager

In addition, members can contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for crisis support 24 hours a day.