Courts should be able to ban online racist abusers from football matches, Labour says

People convicted of online racist abuse should be able to be banned from football matches by the courts, Labour has said.

The demand follows the attacks on three young England footballers, all of whom are black and missed penalty kicks in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.

The Labour Party said that football banning orders, which are currently used to deal with racist abuse at games, should be extended to cover online hatred.

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Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: “The racists who have been abusing England players online should be banned from football grounds. They do not deserve to be anywhere near a game of football.

“We need urgent action to tackle online abuse but the reality is that the government’s Online Safety Bill will not stop racist abuse online.

“Labour would ensure that online abuse is treated in the same way as racism directed at players from the terraces is, so that these racists are brought to justice and banned from grounds.”

An online petition calling for racists to be banned from football matches in England for life has received more than 980,000 signatures since it was launched after Sunday’s match.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel have both condemned the abuse directed at footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the game.

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Mr Johnson also discussed the issue with social media firms on Tuesday.

Football banning orders can last between three and 10 years and they allow magistrates to ban people from all regulated football matches in the UK if they are convicted of certain offences.

Offenders can also be made to surrender their passports before overseas matches.

The orders are mostly used for violent and public disorder offences, so they do not cover online offences.

Of the 1,089 football-related arrests in the 2019/20 season in England and Wales, 35 were for racist and indecent chanting, while 657 were for disorder.

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A spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Racism in any form has no place in our society and that’s why we’re introducing tough new laws to force social media companies to clamp down on it.

“The police already have a range of powers to identify and pursue those who use anonymity to spout hatred.

“Our world-leading Online Safety Bill will also stop repeat offenders from opening new accounts.

“It will include powers to make senior managers criminally liable and we will not hesitate to bring these powers into force if tech firms do not step up their efforts.”

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