Twelve men have been arrested or cautioned after racist abuse targeted an unnamed Tottenham player.
Following the Manchester United vs Tottenham match when Spurs was defeated 3-1 on April 11, a Spurs player became victim of high offensive and racist tweets – but the Metropolitan Police have not revealed who this player is.
The abuse was initially detected through United’s online reporting tool, and then flagged to police in Manchester.
The Metropolitan Police then took lead of the investigation, working closely with both clubs and social media companies involved.
Although the online accounts were anonymous, the users were identified and tracked down across the UK.
Twelve men have been arrested, or interviewed under caution, under suspicion of stirring racial hatred.
Detective Sergeant Matt Simpson from the Met’s public order crime team, said: “This action makes it abundantly clear that police will not stand for racist thuggery, even if it is committed online. The posts, all of which were on Twitter, were vulgar and were utterly unacceptable. There is no safe haven for this type of abusive behaviour and we are committed to taking decisive action to root it out.”
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead, added that racist offenders “cannot hide” as there will be increasingly more arrests in such cases.
The men arrested were all aged between 22 to 32, and were from Poole, Retford, Swansea, Warrington, Bristol, Llanelli, Newport and Hartlepool.
They have been released under investigation as enquiries continue.
Four other men have also been cautioned, and they were from areas including Trafford, Scunthorpe, Poole and Aberdare.
Tony Burnett, Kick It Out CEO, said, “We are pleased to see these arrests being made, it sends a powerful message that online abuse is unacceptable and those found guilty will face real-life consequences. Social media has become a vehicle for inappropriate behaviour on a societal level and certain people think it’s okay to send abusive messages.
“We have to make sure we create an environment where online abuse is punished and that the perpetrators are identified as much as possible. These arrests demonstrate the police’s commitment to tackling online abuse and we hope this sends a message to others so they think twice before posting discriminatory abuse. It’s also important that we remain focused on the welfare of those who play, watch and work in football, and receive abuse, and we will continue to offer our support to those who need it.”