Leeds United came under fire for its controversial comments against footballer-turned-pundit Karen Carney, after she suggested that the pandemic-induced break in 2020 helped the English club in their bid to qualify for the Premier League.

Carney, who has 144 appearances for England, was at the receiving end of social media abuse after Leeds posted a video of her comments along with a caption intended to mock the statement. While the club’s tweet was widely criticized by the football community, many who said that this will encourage fans to troll the analyst further, Leeds stood by it with even club owner Andrea Radrizzani defending the stance.

In the clip in question Carney, analysing for Amazon Prime Video Sport after Leeds beat West Brom 5-0, is heard saying: “They outrun everyone. Credit to them. My only concern would be, ‘Will they blow up at the end of the season?’ We saw that in the last couple of seasons and I actually think last season they got promoted because of Covid in terms of it gave them a bit of respite. I don’t know whether they would have got up if they didn’t have that break.”

Leeds’ tweet picked on one bit – promoted because of Covid – and added that they won the Championship by 10 points.

While the seemingly humorous tweet may have been intended to be general social media banter, the subsequent abuse Carney received was anything but. It is an established fact that the voices of women in sport are always diminished and to target a former footballer in this manner, only amplified the online abuse. It should be noted that Carney is not the only pundit to talk about Biesla’s intense style of play and how they tend to run out of steam at the end of seasons.

Carney received support online while the club was criticised for using its official platform as a troll. Leeds’ critics included Rio Ferdinand and the Women in Football network.

However, many supported the club, including former Leeds player Ben White and the team owner, who said he took responsibility for the tweet.

Later, Leeds condemned the abuse and said that they have contacted Karen Carney in a statement, as reported by the BBC and other media outlets on social media. “Everyone at our club respects Karen greatly for all she has achieved in the game, as well as her work in the media and the charity work she undertakes,” read the statement.

This isn’t the first time Carney has been abused online. A report by The Guardian said that in 2018, she was subjected to such horrific abuse that FA and Lionesses coach Phil Neville stepped in asking police and social media companies to intervene.

Overall, the incident left a sour taste.

Here’s a look at the social media reactions on both sides of the debate: