A man who racially abused Brentford striker Ivan Toney on social media has been banned from every soccer stadium in Britain for three years in what police described Tuesday as a “landmark ruling.”
Antonio Neill sent a racist message to Toney on his Instagram account after the striker scored two goals against Brighton in a Premier League match on Oct. 14.
Police started an investigation after Toney shared a picture of the abuse and the message was traced to the 24-year-old Neill, who lives in Blyth, a town in northern England.
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Neill appeared in a magistrates’ court in Newcastle on Jan. 25 and pleaded guilty to sending an offensive message.
On Monday, he was handed a four-month sentence suspended for two years as well as a three-year soccer banning order, the first to be issued under a government act which became law in 2022. That widened the scope for banning orders to be issued for online hate crimes relating to a person with a connection to a soccer organization.
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“If you are going to choose to be vile and abusive to others, doing it from behind a computer screen or on your phone doesn’t mean you’ll get away with it. Far from it,” Northumbria police and crime commissioner Kim McGuinness said in a statement released Tuesday.
The order forbids Neill from attending any regulated soccer match in Britain and also prevents him from traveling abroad to watch international friendlies, qualification matches and tournaments.
Brentford said the club hopes sentences for online abuse increase and called on social media companies to remove all hateful content to make their platforms safe for everyone.