LONDON: British police have arrested 11 people as part of an investigation into the online racist abuse directed at some Black players in the England football team following their defeat in last month’s Euro 2020 final.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the targets of the abuse after they missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout with Italy which settled the July 11 final after the game finished as a 1-1 draw.
The incident prompted a police investigation and drew wide condemnation from the England captain, manager, royalty, religious leaders and politicians.
The UK Football Policing Unit said 207 posts on social media were identified as criminal, of which 123 accounts belong to individuals overseas and 34 from the United Kingdom.
“There are people out there who believe they can hide behind a social media profile and get away with posting such abhorrent comments. They need to think again,” Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead, said in a statement.
“We have investigators proactively seeking out abusive comments in connection to the match and, if they meet a criminal threshold, those posting them will be arrested. “Our investigation is continuing at pace and we are grateful for those who have taken time to report racist posts to us.”
A small step in the right direction.
The importance of reporting abusive posts should not be underestimated. Thank you to the individuals and organisations who have supported this investigation so far. 🤝
Hate won’t win. https://t.co/ExzIUesZPv
— England (@England) August 5, 2021
A Twitter spokesperson said last month they had removed more than 1,000 tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts, while Facebook said it too had quickly removed abusive comments.
After the incident, England’s Football Association has condemned racist abuse on social media following the team’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
“The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media,” the statement had said.
“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”
The England team has also released a statement condemning the abuse directed at its players on social media. “We’re disgusted that some of our squad — who have given everything for the shirt this summer — have been subjected to discriminatory abuse online after tonight’s game,” the team tweeted. “This abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on social media companies to remove such content from their platforms.
“Those responsible for the disgusting online abuse we have seen must be held accountable — and social media companies need to act immediately to remove and prevent this hate”, Khan said in a tweet.