A police investigation into online racist abuse directed at footballers, following Tottenham's 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United, has resulted in twelve men being interviewed under caution on suspicion of using words or behaviour, or displaying written material with intent to stir up racial hatred.
The online abuse was initially detected by Manchester United's online reporting tool, which was flagged to police in Manchester. The Met took the lead on the investigation, liaising with police partners across the country, social media companies and both football clubs involved. Following painstaking research and police work, the anonymous social media users were subsequently identified and tracked down.
Manchester United have since confirmed they have instigated club sanction proceedings against six individuals as a result of the online abuse, issuing suspensions to three season ticket holders, two official members and one individual on the season ticket waiting list.
Detective Sergeant Matt Simpson from the Met’s public order crime team said: "This action makes it abundantly clear that police will not stand for racist thuggery, even if it is committed online. The posts, all of which were on Twitter, were vulgar and utterly unacceptable. There is no safe haven for this type of abusive behaviour and we are committed to taking decisive action to root it out."
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead said: “This is an excellent example of the police service’s commitment to tackling the online abuse of footballers, in this case led and coordinated by the Metropolitan Police.
“By taking action, it hopefully gets the message across to offenders that you cannot hide and increasingly we will see more arrests as forces, the UKFPU and wider football bodies coordinate their efforts. It should also reassure players that we take this incredibly seriously, and if they come forward we will support them, together with Kick it Out and the PFA.”
The PFA has dedicated and specialist support available, we urge any players who are struggling with the emotional impact of abuse, to make contact and access support.
- PFA Online Abuse Helpline: 0800 368 8484
All calls will remain private and confidential and our experienced team will direct you to the appropriate level of support for your needs.