In a landmark ruling, a man who sent racist messages to Brentford striker Ivan Toney on social media has been banned from every stadium in the UK.
Antonio Neill, 24, had sent the offensive message to Toney on October 14th last year, which was later shared by Toney on his social media. The Northumbria Police and Metropolitan Police investigated the incident and treated it as a hate crime.
Neill, who was then living in Tyneside, was traced as the suspect and pleaded guilty to sending the message when he appeared before the Newcastle magistrates.
On Monday, Neill was given a four-month sentence suspended for two years for his online offence and was made the subject of a three-year football banning order. This order, issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, widened the scope for banning orders to be issued for online hate crimes linked to football. It is the first order of its kind to be issued in the UK.
The banning order prohibits Neill from attending any regulated football match in the country, including Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, and National League fixtures, as well as England home internationals. It also prevents him from travelling abroad to watch international friendlies, qualification matches, and tournaments.
Supt Scott Cowie, hate crime lead for Northumbria Police, expressed his satisfaction with the order and emphasized that discrimination has no place in any society, whether it is out in the community or online.
He thanked all those involved in securing justice, including the team of officers who worked tirelessly to investigate the case, colleagues at the Metropolitan Police, the UK Football Policing Unit, and the Premier League.
Brentford Football Club also expressed its satisfaction with the resolution of the case and the strong precedent set by court appearances for hate crimes.
The club reiterated its zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behavior of any kind and called on social media companies to make their platforms safe for all participants and remove all hateful content.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, praised the police’s efforts in tracking down online racism and making it clear that the region won’t tolerate it. She hoped that this banning order would pave the way for similar punishment for offenders in the future.