12 men arrested over racist abuse against Tottenham footballer on Twitter

21 May 2021, 09:11

A Tottenham footballer was subject to a torrent of racist abuse online in April
A Tottenham footballer was subject to a torrent of racist abuse online in April. Picture: PA
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

12 men from across England and Wales have been arrested after a Tottenham footballer received a torrent of racist abuse from anonymous accounts on Twitter.

The individuals, most of whom are in their 20s, have all been arrested or interviewed under caution under suspicion of stirring up racial hatred in the past two weeks.

Detectives from several police forces - including Greater Manchester, South Wales and Durham - worked together with the social media company to uncover the locations of people behind the abusive accounts.

The arrests ranged from a 63-year-old man in Poole, Dorset, to a 29-year-old man in Hartlepool, County Durham.

Met Police Detective, Sergeant Matt Simpson, said: "This action makes it abundantly clear that police will not stand for racist thuggery, even if it is committed online.

READ MORE: 'Simply unacceptable': English football to boycott social media over racist hate

"The posts, all of which were on Twitter, were vulgar and were 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.

"The investigation was launched following the Manchester United vs Tottenham match on Sunday 11 April. During the match, a Tottenham player was targeted with a series of highly offensive and racist remarks on Twitter.

"This abuse was initially detected via Manchester United’s online reporting tool, and was then flagged to police in Manchester.

"The Met took the lead for this investigation, liaising closely with policing partners nationally as well as social media companies and both of the football clubs involved."

Officers worked with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United to track down the racist fans
Officers worked with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United to track down the racist fans. Picture: PA Images

DS Simpson added: "With a busy summer of football approaching we are committed to driving out this type of racist behaviour – it has no place in football.

"I am delighted with the support we have received from our policing colleagues nationally and from Manchester United and Tottenham. Without them, it would be difficult to identify these users and take action."

Also working on the operation, Superintendent Julie Ellison from Greater Manchester Police said: "Racism has absolutely no place in our communities, and I hope that these arrests send a clear message to those who think it is acceptable to spread hatred and abuse from behind the protection of their keyboard, that this is absolutely not the case.

"We will do everything within our powers to identify who you are and bring you to justice. This latest action is the first as part of this investigation, officers continue to identify further possible offences linked to this match."

The arrests follow the social media boycott by top footballers, their clubs, the Premier League and the Football Association last month.

Welcoming the zero-tolerance approach, Tottenham tweeted on Friday: "We welcome the action taken here. There is no place for racism anywhere in our game and society."

The Kick it Out campaign, set up in 1997 to challenge racism in football, also welcomed the action as a "powerful message" to people hiding behind anonymous accounts to send abuse online.

Kick it Out CEO Tony Burnett said: "We are pleased to see these arrests being made, it sends a powerful message that online abuse is unacceptable and those found guilty will face real-life consequences.

"Social media has become a vehicle for inappropriate behaviour on a societal level and certain people think it’s okay to send abusive messages.

"We have to make sure we create an environment where online abuse is punished and that the perpetrators are identified as much as possible.

"These arrests demonstrate the police’s commitment to tackling online abuse and we hope this sends a message to others so they think twice before posting discriminatory abuse.

"It’s also important that we remain focused on the welfare of those who play, watch and work in football, and receive abuse, and we will continue to offer our support to those who need it."

Full list of arrests

The following people have been arrested and since released under investigation:

  • 22-year-old man from Poole, Dorset
  • 26-year-old man from Retford, Nottinghamshire
  • 32-year-old man from Swansea, Wales
  • 27-year-old man from Warrington, Cheshire
  • 20-year-old man from Bristol
  • 20-year-old man from Llanelli, Wales
  • 25-year-old man from Newport, Wales
  • 29-year-old man from Hartlepool, County Durham

The following were interviewed under caution and have since been released as further enquiries continue:

  • 20-year-old man from Trafford, Greater Manchester
  • 25-year-old man from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire
  • 63-year-old man from Poole, Dorset
  • 25-year-old man from Aberdare, Wales