England players told online racist abuse during Euro 2024 to be met with prosecutions

Bukayo Saka was sent racist abuse on social media following the Euro 2020 final  (Getty Images)
Bukayo Saka was sent racist abuse on social media following the Euro 2020 final (Getty Images)

England players have been reassured by police that anyone who racially abuses them online at Euro 2024 will be prosecuted.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were sent racist abuse online after missing penalties in the defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley in July 2021.

Police made 11 arrests following the final, with one individual sentanced to 10 weeks in prison.

While Gareth Southgate’s squad have been made aware of all the relevant steps and tools on social media such as filters, they have also been talked through the reporting process and shown examples of how people have been prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act.

The clear message is that online abusers won’t be able to “hide behind keyboards” - even if abroad.

National Police Chief Constable Mark Roberts said they have developed a good relationship with social media companies on the issue, including Twitter/X, which brings prompt responses.

A man was jailed in 2021 after livestreaming himself on Facebook racially abusing three England players after the Euro 2020 final.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were targeted by Jonathon Best, 52, in an online rant following the trio’s missed penalties in the shootout against Italy, which England lost, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Best was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison at Willesden magistrates court, having pleaded guilty to sending by public communication network a grossly offensive or indecent or obscene or menacing message or matter.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Supporters who breach German public order laws at the tournament have meanwhile been warned that they could be marched to a cashpoint on the spot, and forced to pay a fine for which there is no maximum limit. That will include certain provocative chants related to history.

The messaging comes as German and English authorities seek to guide fans on how to have the best possible experience at Euro 2024 this summer, in what will be the most widely attended tournament since Euro 2016 in France.

The British police are deploying their strongest force, although there is not too much concern about trouble from agitating English fans as the profile of the most frequent offenders is described as “more Inbetweeners rather than Green Street”.

Fans have simply been warned to use common sense, an example being when England played Germany in Munich in June 2022 in the Nations League.

German police are described as “reasonably tolerant” regarding football supporters due to a strong experience of hosting major games, and that will come with the understanding of British police being on hand if problems arise.

Fans without tickets have been meanwhile advised to stay away from stadiums, as Uefa are on “high alert” about the issue due to the problems at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Police are expecting tens of thousands of British fans to travel. That will ensure the biggest deployment of British police in that time, although there are no major concerns about trouble due to the demographics of the modern fanbase.

Police did unsuccessfully argue that banning orders for fans should be on a case-by-case basis, as far-right activist Tommy Robinson had his four-year banning order lifted, leaving him free to attend Euro 2024.

The former leader of the English Defence League - whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - was given the banning order in December 2020 after being filmed punching another England supporter at the Nations League Finals in Portugal in June 2019.

The Crown Prosecution Service CPS and the UK Football Policing Unit both opposed the lifting of the order, but it was ended with immediate effect from 8 December 2023 by Luton magistrates’ court.

There is still confidence Euro 2024 will go ahead smoothly, as German police played down concerns about trouble from potential political protests over the situation in Gaza and - separately - the threat of terror attacks.

Police pointed to how the latter was the major issue going into Euro 2016 in France but strong security reassured fans.