Sunday, 10 Dec 2023

Football fan banned from every ground in the UK for racism against Ivan Toney

A fan who sent racially abusive messages to England striker Ivan Toney has been banned from every football ground in the country in a legal first.

Antonio Neill, 24, called Mr Toney, 26, a ‘black c***’ in a message last October, after the striker helped Brentford win a game against Brighton.

The police treated the abuse as a hate crime and traced it back to a suspect who was then living in the North Shields area.

Neill, from Blyth in Northumberland, pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message when he appeared at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court in January.

He was given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and a three-year football banning order yesterday.

The banning order is the first of its kind to be issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

This legislation widened the scope for banning orders to be issued for online hate crimes that are linked to football.

When Neill, of Robert Street, admitted the charge in January he apologised in court to the player and said: ‘I’m disgusted and ashamed and want to become a better person.’

Northumbria Police’s hate crime lead superintendent Scott Cowie said: ‘Discrimination has absolutely no place in any society, whether out in our communities or online.

‘I am therefore delighted that the seriousness of Neill’s offence has been reflected with this banning order, the first of its kind to be issued in the UK.

‘I hope this reinforces our commitment to taking action against anybody who commits a hate crime – it will not be tolerated, and we will do all we can to put perpetrators before the courts.’

Commissioner Kim McGuinness added: ‘If you are going to choose to be vile and abusive to others, doing it from behind a computer screen or on your phone doesn’t mean you’ll get away with it, far from it.

‘As this case shows, Northumbria Police can track you down, and I hope this banning order demonstrates how seriously officers take hate matters and that it paves the way for other offenders to face similar punishment in future.’

After the case, Brentford FC said: ‘Court appearances set a strong precedent for anyone else who commits hate crimes, and it is our hope that sentences increase in severity until this sort of crime is eradicated.

‘Ivan Toney has been subject to sickening racist abuse on a regular basis, and we want to see tough action taken against anyone found guilty of such abuse.’

Mr Toney faced racist abuse again in February, after a 1-1 draw with Arsenal.

Brentford said in a statement: ‘We call on football fans everywhere to relish the competition and rivalry that exists between us, but to respect and embrace our differences and celebrate the diversity that exists throughout the Premier League.

‘There is no room for racism.’

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