Tackling racism: How the CPS crack down on those who racially abuse footballers
21 September 2021, 16:55 | Updated: 22 September 2021, 11:14
Last summer, the England football team united a nation as they made their way to the final of Euro 2020. After all the difficulties of the COVID pandemic, it was great to finally come together with friends and family to watch a game that never felt more beautiful.
Unfortunately, England's success was overshadowed by a troubling spike in online racism directed towards a number of young black players.
The 'disease' of racism is not a new thing in football and is sadly representative of the abhorrent behaviour of a minority within our society.
The immediacy and reach of online social media platforms have been 'weaponised' by those wanting to racially abuse Black and Asian footballers.
But this minority should be under no illusion, the CPS takes this vile type of crime extremely seriously and will prosecute those where we have the evidence to do so.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen two prosecutions for the online racial abuse of a footballer.
One horrendous case saw so-called West Bromwich Albion fan Simon Silwood convicted of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers, a footballer playing for the team he claims to support.
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Romaine brought the offensive content to the attention of West Midlands Police with the support of his club and it led to an extensive police investigation and prosecutor case review.
During his police interview, Silwood admitted to posting a message on social media after becoming upset by Albion's 5-0 defeat by Manchester City but argued he had intended to type a different word, blaming what resulted on predictive text.
The CPS and police were able to expose his account of events as a lie and demonstrate Silwood deliberately used an offensive racial slur about the player.
Other West Brom fans were also appalled by the post and reported it to the club. This meant we had an even stronger case in proving how despicable this message was.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka
In another case, the CPS proved Scott McCluskey used his Facebook account to post racist and insulting comments about England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following the end of the Euro 2020 final.
The posts were seen by McCluskey's Facebook 'friends' and was met with condemnation, with replies referring to his comments as 'absolutely disgusting', 'blatant out and out racism' and 'disgraceful'. The posts were reported to the police and resulted in another successful prosecution.
Online hate has real-world consequences
The actions of the CPS in these cases prove how seriously we are taking these allegations. One single comment or tweet could see an individual facing criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment for a hate crime - and bring about real-world consequences for those who, by hiding behind a keyboard, feel they are beyond reach.
After the Euro final, many will have seen the headlines of one person losing their job because of the racist abuse of England players. Convictions for racial hatred stay on your record and will harm people's ability to obtain jobs or promotions.
These cases are not without challenges as sometimes those responsible hide behind anonymous accounts or are based overseas.
However, we are working closely with police, football clubs, player bodies and other organisations to build the strongest possible cases. This will help us protect players by ensuring we get everything we need to prosecute.
We call on everyone to report any racist content they see online to the police and relevant social media companies.
In the days following the final, we saw a huge outpouring of support for those players affected by online abuse because the vast majority of football fans recognise that there is no place for racism in the game - just as there is no place for it within society.
Together we can stamp out hate from the game we love.
Hate won't win
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(c) Sky Sports 2021: Tackling racism: How the CPS crack down on those who racially abuse footballers