STEVE BRUCE has called on social media companies to do more to protect footballing figures from vile online abuse – and revealed he has received death threats as well as messages expressing a hope that he ‘dies of Covid’.

The issue of online abuse within football has dominated the headlines in the last few days, with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Axel Tuanzebe, Chelsea full-back Reece James and Swansea midfielder Yan Dhanda all being subjected to abusive messages on social media.

Referee Mike Dean will not be taking charge of a Premier League game this weekend after notifying police that his family had received death threats and abusive messages, and now Bruce has revealed that he has had to deal with similar threats.

The Newcastle United manager does not have a social media account, but his family have been made aware of abusive messages aimed in his direction and have been understandably distressed at the stream of unacceptable online behaviour.

“I don’t go on it (social media),” said Bruce. “But of course people close to me do and they are sensitive towards their father of course, and yes (there have been death threats). Yep, I’ve had that to deal with.

“We’ve got to police it better and there are some vulnerable people out there. When I see the nature of some of it, it’s totally and utterly vile. Some of the stuff I’ve had has been obscene. You feel the hatred and something has to be done.

“It’s really horrible stuff, which I couldn’t really get my breath with, really. Things like someone saying they hope I die of Covid and all of this. It's absolutely vile and obscene, it has to be stopped. These big companies should start policing it better than they are doing, that’s for sure.

“I’m not sure how far back the abuse goes, but I just know that in conversations with my family over the last few days when we've been talking about the Mike Dean situation, it was brought to my attention that I've had it too.” 

Earlier this week, Facebook’s UK head of content policy, Fadzai Madzingira, expressed her “horror” at the abuse some footballers were regularly being subjected to, and pledged to introduce tougher measures to tackle the issue.

There have been calls for all other social media companies to follow suit, with Bruce adamant that the online giants have to take more responsibility for stamping out abuse and identifying repeat offenders.

“Social media is a really, really powerful weapon,” he said. “These big companies have got to police it better. The abuse I've had, death threats and all this sort of stuff. When I see the referee become a target for it because he has made a mistake, people threatening his life, it's absolutely obscene and totally ridiculous.

“They need to clamp down on it and they need to police it better because there are vulnerable people out there and it's vile some of it.

“Whatever you might think of Mike Dean, nobody deserves that. He gets a decision wrong - and it was in the last 30 minutes of the game and nothing really hinged on it - but he feels the need to have to step down this weekend.

“These big companies have to police it better and find out who these idiots and morons are who send this vile abuse and make them be punished.”