JAMES McArthur endured the most Twitter abuse of any Scottish footballer in the English Premier League last season, a new report indicates.

Research by Ofcom and the Alan Turing Institute has found that almost a third of all tweets mentioning the Scotland international midfielder were abusive.

The report found that while the vast majority of tweets sent to footballers are positive, around 3.5% of them are abusive.

The study analysed more than 2.3 million tweets directed at Premier League players over the first five months of the 2021-22 season and found that almost 60,000 were abusive.

It also revealed that 418 of the 618 players analysed - two thirds - received at least one abusive tweet, with 8% of that abuse aimed at a protected characteristic such as their race or gender.

It found that a Premier League footballer is abused every four minutes on Twitter - with eight of the 10 most abused players playing for Manchester United.

Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes were among the most abused Premier League players The report found that Mr McArthur, who plays for Crystal Palace, had been targeted after received a yellow card for a foul on Arsenal's Bukayo Saka on October 18, 2021. Over half of the abusive tweets he recieved were sent on that day.

The 34-year-old former Hamilton player who announced his retirement from international football in 2018 after earning 32 caps and scoring four goals, received the second most abusive messages as a percentage of all received - behind Newcastle United's Ciaran Clark.

The study of tweets sent in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 finals - which saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka abused online after missing penalties for England - found on average 362 abusive tweets were sent daily, with seven in 10 Premier League players on Twitter abused.

HeraldScotland: 28/08/17 . MAR HALL - BISHOPTON . Scotland's James McArthur.

Around one in 12 abusive tweets targeted a victim's protected characteristic, such as their race or gender.

Half of all abuse towards Premier League stars is directed at twelve particular players who received an average of 15 abusive tweets every day.

Ronaldo received the most abuse during the period -12,520 tweets - but also received the most tweets overall, 576,915, meaning 2.2 per cent of the messages he received were abusive.

Maguire was second, receiving 8,954 abusive messages, which worked out at 14.90 per cent of the tweets he received. Many of these messages were sent in response to an apology tweet he made following a defeat to Manchester City.

Other United players who received significant abuse include Fernandes, David de Gea, Fred, Jesse Lingard - who now plays for Nottingham Forest - Rashford and Paul Pogba, who has joined Juventus.

Ciaran Clark, received the most abuse as a percentage of all of the messages directed, at 34.1 per cent.

The research found that the next most abused player, Mr McArthur was abused in 30% of messages.

Third on the list was Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy.

The analysis said: "Some players received large amounts of abuse, even though they receive fairly few tweets overall."

"In all three cases, qualitative analysis of the data suggests there were specific triggers for the high volumes ofaAbuse that these otherwise lower-profile players received,"

"On 18th October 2021, James McArthur, a player for Crystal Palace, was given a yellow card during a match against Arsenal after he stepped on the leg of Arsenal fan favourite Bukayo Saka.

HeraldScotland:

"Users who appear to be Arsenal fans used insults to refer to James McArthur. 54 per cent of the abusive tweets he received were sent on this day."

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for broadcasting and online content said: "These findings shed light on a dark side to the beautiful game. Online abuse has no place in sport, nor in wider society, and tackling it requires a team effort.

"Social media firms needn’t wait for new laws to make their sites and apps safer for users. When we become the regulator for online safety, tech companies will have to be really open about the steps they’re taking to protect users. We will expect them to design their services with safety in mind.

"Supporters can also play a positive role in protecting the game they love. Our research shows the vast majority of online fans behave responsibly, and as the new season kicks off we’re asking them to report unacceptable, abusive posts whenever they see them."

In a poll of the general public, the researchers found that a quarter of teens and adults who go online (27%) saw online abuse directed at a footballer last season. This increases to more than a third of fans who follow football (37%) – and is higher still among fans of the women’s game (42%).

Among those who came across abuse, more than half (51%) said they found the content extremely offensive, but a significant proportion didn't take any action in response (30%). Only around one in every four (26%) used the flagging and reporting tools to alert the abusive content to the platform, or marked the content as junk.

Dr Bertie Vidgen, lead author of the report and head of online safety at The Alan Turing Institute said: "These stark findings uncover the extent to which footballers are subjected to vile abuse across social media. Prominent players receive messages from thousands of accounts daily on some platforms, and it wouldn’t have been possible to find all the abuse without these innovative AI techniques.

"While tackling online abuse is difficult, we can’t leave it unchallenged. More must be done to stop the worst forms of content to ensure that players can do their job without being subjected to abuse."