'Kick rapists off the pitch' banner flown over Premier League opener
'No matter who you are, if you are violent towards a woman, you should face consequences...'
A banner carrying the message 'Kick rapists off the pitch' was flown over the opening Premier League fixture of the new season between Crystal Palace and Arsenal on Friday night.
A plane towing the banner was seen in the skies above Selhurst Park as the game kicked off.
It is the result of a collaboration between feminist campaign group Level Up and Arsenal fans who are calling for the club to lead the way on tackling gender-based violence by introducing a disciplinary policy for players accused under investigation for sexual violence.
The protest follows the news that the Premier League have introduced a new policy for all players to receive mandatory training on sexual consent.
While Level Up have welcomed the development, they also believe the league needs to go further.
"No matter who you are, if you are violent towards a woman, you should face consequences," said Seyi Falodun-Liburd, co-director of Level Up.
"There appears to be a culture of impunity around gender-based violence in football. The Premier League are finally beginning to recognise the enormous influence that football has on our culture and our individual behaviours by introducing mandatory consent training, and we want to make sure this is accompanied by disciplinary actions for players who cause harm.
"We want to see this done by an independent ombudsman."
Arsenal fan Mikey Franklin added: "As a lifelong Arsenal fan, I want to see our club lead the league in fighting sexual violence.
"Players who harm women shouldn’t wear our shirt, and anyone who is violent towards a woman must be held accountable, no matter how important they are to the team’s success.
"My daughters are becoming Arsenal fans, and I want them to be able to proudly wear our shirt.
"That will only be possible when our team shows it’s serious about ending violence against women."