Football fan avoids jail after being racist online about black England players

9 September 2021, 10:17 | Updated: 9 September 2021, 11:18

He was given a suspended sentence for his comments about Sancho (L), Rashford (C) and Saka (R)
He was given a suspended sentence for his comments about Sancho (L), Rashford (C) and Saka (R). Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A football fan has avoided jail after he admitted to posting racist comments on social media about three of England's black footballers following the Euro 2020 final.

Scott McCluskey, 43, was handed a 14-week suspended sentence for messages written online about Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho.

He blamed the trio of black footballers for the Three Lions' heartbreaking loss to Italy in the penalty shoot-out on 11 July, Warrington Magistrates' Court heard.

The defendant wrote: "Well it took three ethnic players to f*** it up. Unlucky England. Sack them three monkeys."

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All three players missed their spot-kicks, which led to them receiving a torrent of racist abuse on social media immediately after the game.

On Wednesday, McCluskey - of Blyth Close, Runcorn - admitted a single charge of sending an offensive or abusive message by a public communication network.

Before being handed his suspended sentence, which will include 30 days of rehabilitation work on racism and diversity, he sat in the dock hunched over with his head in his hands.

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Defending the 43-year-old, Dave Robb said his client had no previous convictions and had now lost his good character.

Asking for a suspended sentence, Mr Robb added: "As a consequence of one stupid mistake, this posting, he bitterly regrets it. It may have been influenced by cannabis, that's no excuse.

"He can't say sorry enough. He knows he's done wrong."

Responding to district judge Nicholas Sanders' decision, the defendant, whose partner is also his carer, told him: "All I can say is I'm deeply ashamed."

McCluskey sighed and looked up at the ceiling as he was told the offence merited immediate custody, but due to his lack of previous convictions, early guilty plea, his show of remorse and the prospect of rehabilitation spoken of in his probation report, the judge gave the defendant a second chance and suspended the sentence.

Judge Sanders added: "This sort of online abuse seems to have gained some sort of traction in our society and it is entirely unacceptable.

"It is something which has the capability to cause real harm not just to individuals, such as the three footballers concerned, but to wider society as a whole.

"This is a foul offence which has far-reaching consequences not only for you but the general public."

McCluskey was also ordered to observe a weekend curfew on Saturdays and Sundays, monitored by an electronic tag, and made to pay £85 costs and a £128 victim surcharge, to be deducted from his benefits.

Earlier, Simon Green, of the prosecution, told the court the defendant's Facebook post was met with "condemnation and outrage" and was reported by someone who had themselves been affected by racism.

McCluskey claimed he posted the message to make people laugh, saying, "it was a joke", and later deleted the post, but not before it was reported to Cheshire Police.

Mr Green said at the time of the posting "feelings were high" and there were already concerns about racist abuse online, particularly aimed at footballers.

District Judge Sanders had ordered an urgent probation report before passing sentence.

He said: "Nobody should abuse anyone for the colour of their skin, to do so against three young men, clearly doing their very best for their country, is frankly sickening."