Four arrested over racist tweets sent to England footballers

Police make dozens of requests to social media companies to identify users

Four people have been arrested over racist abuse sent to England football players after the defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Police on Thursday said they had made dozens of data applications to social media companies as part of a hate crime investigation led by detectives from the UK Football Policing Unit.

Abusive posts sent to black footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after each missed a penalty in the decisive shootout drew widespread condemnation.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, who leads the National Police Chiefs' Council football policing, said investigators were sifting through "a large number of reports from across the country".

"The UKFPU investigation is well under way and work continues to identify those responsible. We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries," he said.

"If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions."

He said the England team were full of "true role models" who showed "professionalism and dignity".

"I'm disgusted there are individuals out there who think it's acceptable to direct such abhorrent abuse at them, or at anybody else," he said.

The specialised unit said it was receiving information from various channels including local police, charities and football clubs.

On Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police said estate agent Andrew Bone was arrested on suspicion of sending malicious communications.

Mr Bone denies sending the posts and claims his account was hacked. He was released pending further investigation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday the government would be extending the scope of football banning orders to include online abuse.

He pressured social media companies to take stronger action against perpetrators of abuse.

A petition on the UK government website urging ministers to remove anonymity for social media users has gathered more than 680,000 signatures.

A separate petition by football fans Shaista Aziz, Amna Abdullatif and Huda Jawad has collected more than one million signatures.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson defended his government's response to tackling abuse after footballer Tyrone Mings accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of "stoking the fire" by refusing to back the England team for taking the knee in a symbolic gesture against racism at this summer's tournament.

Ms Patel said taking the knee was "gesture politics". But under fire in the House of Commons, the prime minister said his government was taking “practical steps” to combat racist abuse.

Updated: July 15, 2021, 11:35 AM