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Wales legend visits Kilgetty to help launch new BT portal to tackle online hate

BT Hope United roadshow at Kilgetty AFC, Pembrokeshire, 3 April 2022. Picture: Mark Hawkins for Cake UK.

YOUNGSTERS from Kilgetty AFC were treated to a masterclass in both football and digital skills from Wales legend Neville Southall on the weekend, as the former goalkeeper helped launch a new portal from BT to tackle online hate.

Southall visited Kingsmoor Sports Ground and, through using educational content on the new platform, helped players from Kilgetty AFC understand first-hand the impact online hate can have, before putting them through their paces on the pitch with several training drills.

Speaking to the Herald about the initiative and his time in Kilgetty, Neville said: “BT have got this campaign through the Welsh FA to try and educate people about online abuse and how to deal with it.

“We’re just trying to get the kids to share some of their experiences. I shared my experiences because I do get a lot of online abuse at times so it’s all about education and giving them ways to go for help to deal with it.

“It’s a lovely run club, it was a really good day the club seems to be well set up, it’s a lovely venue and the club went out of their way, the chairman was brilliant and it shows a real forward-thinking club because they realise kids spend a lot of time online and they want to try and protect their players.

“They all listened, they all joined in. On the day it’s difficult because people are reluctant to speak up at times but when they go away and they think about it and they learn, I don’t think you can measure that and that’s the problem when you talk about bullying and people’s mental health.

“The people that don’t normally speak up are the people that are taking the information in and the ones you are making the difference to.

“In a football sense it’s different because you can use sport as that setting to give examples.”

“You’ve got certain organisations like childline, you’ve got your parents but it’s more about support within the club as well, making them aware they’ve got the people like the managers to go to.

“Obviously they all go to the training days, they’ve all got their mates to go to and hopefully it will encourage them and you’ll guarantee within a club there is somebody being bullied, so that would have helped them and helped their mates to help them.

“Overall, sport is a great way of reaching children and a great way of reaching adults. It’s a great initiative because it brings something home that everybody is aware of, but lots of people sit back and do nothing about so I’m really grateful to BT and Hope United and the Welsh FA and the forward thinking of Kilgetty AFC, they’re a good example for other clubs to follow.”

Created in partnership with non-profit organisation Cybersmile, BT’s new platform comprises three modules focusing on upskilling users and educating them on how to be good digital citizens.

The modules include content specific to each Home Nation and featuring players from across the four teams, including Wales’ Helen Ward, Jess Fishlock and Natasha Harding, as well as England’s Harry Kane, Scotland’s Rachel Corsie and Northern Ireland’s Jamal Lewis, as they discuss their personal experience of online hate and abuse:

  • Why hope beats hate: how hope can heal, empower, unite, inspire and save people.
  • The impact of online abuse: the implications of online abuse and how everyone can be a better digital citizen.
  • Digital self-care: Discover how to look after mental and physical wellbeing by keeping a healthy balance between online and offline lives.

The modules are available to anyone, for free, at https://cybersmileeducation.org/roadshow/

Over the next month, further roadshows will visit young players at clubs across the UK, providing them with content from BT’s platform.

The roadshows build on BT’s Hope United initiative which launched last year, bringing together a diverse team of football players to tackle online hate to understand the impact online hate can have and what can be done to combat it. The Hope United Roadshow is the latest phase in BT’s ‘4-3-3’ strategy – a five-year plan that’s using technology and innovation in footballing communities across the UK to help change the lives of millions of players, coaches and fans.

Pete Jeavons, marketing communications director, BT, said: “Working alongside Cybersmile has allowed us to continue the vital work that Hope United kickstarted last year: to tackle the online hatred and cyberbullying that is sadly part of everyday life. We’re also incredibly excited to further support grassroots football communities across the UK as part of our long-term partnerships with the four UK Home Nations Football Associations to up-skill millions of players, coaches and fans.”