FA funds police unit to catch people who racially abuse footballers online

13 June 2024, 11:53

The FA is funding a police unit to prosecute racist abuse of footballers
The FA is funding a police unit to prosecute racist abuse of footballers. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The Football Association is paying police to catch people who racially abuse footballers on social media.

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The FA said they would provide funding of about £25,000 to make sure that police have the "resource" to catch abusers.

That is in addition to putting together an "evidence pack" documenting the online abuse of players, which FA staff have already been doing.

Black players have often targeted by racists on social media, despite repeated campaigns by footballing authorities pledging to stamp out the abuse.

Notoriously, after England lost to Italy in the final of Euro 2020, the three players who missed penalties - Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho - all received racist abuse online.

Read more: ‘You almost get used to being racially abused when playing away in Spain’, Jude Bellingham says ahead of crucial game

Read more: Fifa boss calls for teams to face automatic forfeits if fans commit racist abuse following ‘abhorrent’ incident

Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford were both racially abused after the last Euros
Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford were both racially abused after the last Euros. Picture: Getty

The FA, England manager Gareth Southgate and then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson all condemned the abuse.

Several months after the final, a man was jailed for ten weeks for live-streaming himself abusing the three players, all of whom were in their teens or early twenties at the time.

Players have repeatedly called for the social media companies to exert more control over racists who post abuse online.

Mark Bullingham, the FA's chief executive, said footballing authorities were now approaching the issue differently, having spoken to players.

He said: "In the past what we did was put together all the data, effectively an evidence pack, to give to the police to prosecute.

England manager Gareth Southgate and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham (right)
England manager Gareth Southgate and FA chief executive Mark Bullingham (right). Picture: Alamy

"But this time we have gone a stage further where we are actually funding a unit within the British police that will then prosecute.

"What we don’t want to do is create a pack that we then give to the police for them to prosecute but they don’t have the resource to actually take that forward.

"So we are paying for the prosecution to then happen and funding the police to make sure if there are instances of the examples we have seen before, they get prosecuted."

Mr Bullingham said the exact amount that the FA would contribute would depend on how many prosecutions were brought, but the"ballpark figure" was around £25,000.

Boris Johnson condemns racist abuse directed at England footballers

England play Serbia in their first game of Euro 2024 on Sunday, and authorities in host nation Germany have revealed that fans will be served with low-alcohol beer amid fears of violence.

But Mr Bullingham praised the travelling faithful and said that "over the last few years, we've shown our fans have been great supporters of the team and behaved well."

He said: "Obviously you are going to have a big volume of people and that's maybe a factor they need to consider. We are expecting - I'm not really quite sure how anyone really measures this - up to 500,000 people estimated.

"Understandably with that volume of people, they will be looking at that. What I would say is, over the last few years our England fans have been absolutely brilliant support to us, particularly in the stadium.

"There are a lot of people going to come out here. The best thing that the fans can do to help us do well in this tournament is be a tribute to their country.

"The German police have proved they are really good at policing football tournaments so there's no reason why that shouldn't be the case again. But really the main message is: get behind the team and support in the right way."

German police have also asked England fans not to sing the infamous 'Ten German Bombers' chant, which is considered disrespectful by many.

Nigel Farage told LBC in response that German authorities need to "get a sense of humour".

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