This week saw one Twitter user jailed for 56 days for posting racially offensive comments about Fabrice Muamba, just a week after another was handed a community service order for abusing Stan Collymore based on the colour of the former England international’s skin.
Add to those the numerous incidents on social networking sites of individuals who see it as acceptable to direct abuse at black footballers from what they see as the safety of bedrooms up and down the country.
Fortunately the guilty are now discovering that their abuse can soon be followed by a knock at the door from the police.
This season has seen an apparent resurgence in racism directed at players past and present, and now the authorities want the clubs to address incidents of abuse at football stadia.
It was the 1970s and 80s when it was commonplace to hear abusive chants directed at black footballers, and the Crown Prosecution Service appear keen to ensure a zero tolerance policy is adopted.
“I would strongly urge clubs to stop their fans singing their more choice chants,” said Nick Hawkins, the CPS’s lead sports prosecutor.
“Making clubs play games behind closed doors hits them in their pockets, and deducting league points lessens their chance of qualifying for Europe.”
The comments come a week after a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public-order offence during a game between Arsenal and Newcastle United on March 12.
The Gunners carried out an internal investigation following reports that an individual had been caught on Sky Sports’ live television coverage of the match at Emirates Stadium abusing Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote.
Speaking at a University of Portsmouth lecture, Hawkins also highlighted the increase in abuse on social media.
“One area where I would argue we need more support from sports authorities is when dealing with inappropriate crowd behaviour and in particular, chanting” he added.
“Football authorities have dealt with violent crowd behaviour this way. I would strongly urge clubs to seek to stop their fans singing some of their more choice chants.
“Anyone who follows football and social affairs north of the border will have seen a real reduction in sectarian chanting this season, due to a concerted effort by all parties.”
One of the more positive outcomes from the social network incidents is that footballers are now more inclined to report such incidents.
The days of simply ignoring the bigots have been replaced by a determination to see the authorities take appropriate action.
Hawkins added: “Harassment through social media is covered by existing legislation, such as the Misuse of Communications Act, and we have already seen successful prosecutions in this area.
“This is an area where I would suggest education, both of what not to do and of how easy it is to detect and prosecute these offences, might prevent the criminalisation of otherwise decent people, but I should stress I would never condone the misuse of social media to commit what would be a hate crime if said face to face.”
Tags: Cheick Tiote, Fabrice Muamba, Racism, RESPECT, Stan Collymore, Twitter