A landmark ruling has banned a 24-year-old man from every stadium in the country for racially abusing the Brentford striker Ivan Toney on social media.
Antonio Neill sent an abusive message to Toney on October 14, 2022, which the player shared with the public via his account.
The Premier League, working with the club, player and the police, investigated the message which was treated as a hate crime and was traced to a suspect in the North Shields area of the UK.
Neill pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message when he appeared before magistrates in Newcastle on January 25 and on Monday was handed a four-month jail sentence suspended for two years for the online offence as well as a three-year football banning order – the first of its kind to be issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
The legislation widened the scope for banning orders to be issued for online hate crimes relating to a person with a prescribed connection to a football organisation.
Superintendent Scott Cowie, hate crime lead for Northumbria Police, 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.”
“I would like to thank everyone who played their part in this particular case, including the team of officers who worked tirelessly to secure justice as well as our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police, the UK Football Policing Unit and the Premier League.”
Brentford FC welcome sentence
Brentford welcomed the resolution of the case, adding, “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.”
“The club firmly believes there is no place for racial abuse in football and we continue to support and implement a zero-tolerance policy towards discriminatory behaviour of any kind.”
“All authorities have their role to play in this and we, again, call upon the social media companies to make their platforms safe for all participants and to remove all hateful content.”
The order forbids Neill from attending any regulated football match in the UK, which includes Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two and National League fixtures, as well as England home internationals.
The banning order also prevents him from travelling abroad to watch international friendlies, qualification matches and tournaments.
A Premier League spokesperson said: “Racism in any form will not be tolerated by the Premier League and our clubs and we encourage supporters to continue to play their part in this by reporting it.”