Online racists will be banned from football matches, Boris Johnson confirms

14 July 2021, 14:36 | Updated: 14 July 2021, 14:43

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has said online racists will be banned from football matches following abuse aimed at England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

The Government is changing football banning orders to cover online racism, the PM confirmed during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson condemned the racist abuse directed at England players following the team's defeat in the Euro 2020 final.

READ MORE: Starmer: 'PM is on the wrong side of a culture war' after England players face abuse

READ MORE: Instagram users who report racist posts told they ‘do not qualify for ban’

"I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night," he said.

"So what we are doing is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning regime is changed so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online on football, then you will not be going to the match.

"No ifs, no buts, no exemptions, no excuses."

The Prime Minister faced a barrage of criticism over his apparent reluctance to condemn fans who booed England players taking the knee.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Either the Prime Minister is with the England players in their stand against racism or he can defend his own record, those ministers and some of his MPs - but he can't have it both ways."

"We made it absolutely clear that no-one should boo the England team," Mr Johnson replied.

The PM also referred to a meeting he had with representatives from social media companies, adding: "Unless they get hate and racism off their platforms they will face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenues."

But Sir Keir countered: "On 7 June the Prime Minister's spokesperson said this: 'On taking the knee specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on actions rather than gestures'. On 14 June the Home Secretary said, 'I just don't support people participating in that type of gesture politics'.

"So there's no point pretending that these things weren't said.

"The England footballer Tyrone Mings... he said this labelling anti-racism messages as gesture politics served to stoke the fire of racism and hatred - Prime Minister they're powerful words from someone who has himself been subjected to racist abuse. He's right, isn't he?"

The Labour leader also said "putting on an England shirt over a shirt and tie whilst not condemning those booing" was the "worst kind" of gesture politics.

Mr Johnson insisted he supported the team "in the way that they show solidarity with their friends who face racism".

He added: "The Home Secretary has faced racism and prejudice all her career of a kind that he can never imagine, and she has taken practical steps to get black and minority officers into the police in record numbers."

Sir Keir said: "We could all see what's happened here - the Government has been trying to stoke a culture war and they've realised they're on the wrong side, and now they're hoping nobody has noticed.

"Why else would a Conservative MP boast that he's not watching his own team? Why else would another Conservative MP say that Marcus Rashford spends too much time playing politics when he's actually trying to feed children that the Government won't? And why will the Prime Minister refuse time and time again - even now - to condemn those who boo our players for standing up against racism?

"What is it that this England team symbolises that this Conservative Party is so afraid of?"

"I don't want to engage in a political culture war of any kind, I want to get on with delivering for the people of this country," the Prime Minister responded.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford referred to an infamous article in which Mr Johnson, at the time a journalist, used the phrase "flag waving picaninnies with watermelon smiles".

The Prime Minister insisted it had been "taken out of context".

Mr Blackford replied: "Still no contrition, still no apology."