Laws banning football hooligans in England from attending matches will be extended to target those responsible for racially abusing players on social media, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
The proposed change to football banning orders follows a deluge of abuse being directed at several black England players after the team’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final against Italy on Sunday.
“What we’re doing is today taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed, so that if you are guilty… of racist abuse online of footballers then you will not be going to the match,” he told MPs.
The banning orders, created in 1989 to stop known English hooligans causing trouble at and around domestic and overseas matches, are managed by the Football Banning Orders Authority.
Responding to an urgent question on the issue in parliament, junior interior minister Victoria Atkins — whose department is responsible for the unit — conceded using the orders to tackle the trolls, who are often overseas, would be “complex”.
“But we want very much to work with football clubs and others to ensure these orders have the powers that we all want them to have,” she added.
Greater Manchester Police in northwest England said a 37-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act after social media posts directed at England players.
The offence carries penalties of a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.