The Football Association of Ireland has offered its support to James McClean after the Stoke winger suffered online abuse, with his wife revealing she once watched a match in fear after someone threatened to take a gun to the game.
The 31-year-old Republic of Ireland international posted on his Instagram stories on Sunday evening a screengrab of a direct message he had received from a user which read: “Don’t make me set your house on fire and burn everyone inside it.”
His wife, Erin, detailed at length on social media on Monday the abuse the couple have had to deal with over the years, including being spat at and shouted at, and said: “I even remember once someone threatened him saying they were taking a gun with them to a certain match and I can still remember watching that match in absolute fear on the TV. There isn’t a day that goes by that either one of us don’t receive a message of some sort, whether it be a threat, or else telling us to get the f*** out of England.”
The FAI’s chief executive, Jonathan Hill, issued a statement on Monday evening condemning the abuse. “The Football Association of Ireland condemns the latest social media threats aimed at senior Irish international team player James McClean and offers James and his family our full support at this difficult time,” he said. “The Association has reached out to James in light of this most recent incident and assured him that the FAI will assist him in any way it can.”
Hill continued: “The FAI remains committed to safeguarding all of our players against any form of abuse on any social media platform. To abuse or threaten James or any player because of his nationality should not be tolerated by society. Unfortunately, such behaviour is all too common now on social media. Only last week we commended the stance taken by English football against the abuse of footballers across all social media channels and we are examining how best we can take a similar stance.”
Erin McClean said she was speaking out “after nine years of constant abuse” as the couple’s three children were now at an age where they understood what was being said. “Of course we have tried as hard as possible to keep them away from it all but there has been times we are out shopping and there is people making remarks towards James in front of the kids,” she said. “We can take the name calling and the rest but what we cannot accept is threatening our family home and our children’s lives. They don’t deserve this. Why after nine years of constant abuse should we be OK and have to accept receiving these threats constantly?”
McClean has been singled out in the past for sectarian abuse after opting against wearing a poppy on his matchday shirt in recent years. He followed up his message sharing the latest abuse by calling for more to be done to prevent such attacks, with social media companies currently under pressure to take sterner action against those posting threats.
“Banging my head against a brick wall here but look I have been doing that anyways for a long time so one more won’t make a difference,” he wrote. “So much coverage this past couple weeks about discrimination and the condemnation of it across media outlets, players, ex-players etc which is great to see because it’s wrong and idiots should be held responsible for their actions and words as nobody should be subjected to that.
“Make no mistake about it or to take anything away from that but just to pose the question really, racism, gender, ethnic.. the list of discrimination that goes on is unacceptable right, my question is here… does being abused for being Irish and anti-Irish abuse acceptable? Is it not popular enough to be seen to be acknowledged or spoke out about too?
“I have highlighted the abuse publicly on social media recently and the silence from everyone is deafening! If you are offended by me saying that then maybe that tells you something.”