Anti-racism campaigners welcome new plan to tackle abuse online and in football grounds

Liam Jones, from Hendon, who was banned after doing a 'monkey-chant' during Sunderland vs West Brom football match at the Stadium of Light.

Liam Jones, from Hendon, who was banned after doing a 'monkey-chant' during Sunderland vs West Brom football match at the Stadium of Light.

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NEW proposals to tackle football fan abuse online as well as on the terraces has been welcomed by anti-racism campaigners.

Lawyers and police yesterday unveiled a new policy for tackling hooliganism, as well as homophobic chanting.

Sports prosecutor Nick Hawkins said criminal abuse inside as well as outside of football grounds would be dealt with in the run-up to the England national team’s World Cup qualifiers this autumn.

“It’s not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on,” said Mr Hawkins.

“Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online.”

The move already has the backing of the FA and the players’ union the PFA.

Ged Grebby, of North East educational charity Show Racism the Red Card which works with former Sunderland AFC skipper Gary Bennett, said today that the plans would improve the match going experience for fans. We welcome anything that raises the issue and profile of action being taken against racists,” said Mr Grebby.

“However, we still think the main job is about education. We have the change the attitudes of certain people so that they don’t do these kind of things in the first place.”

The announcement about the change in policy comes just weeks after Sunderland fan Liam Jones was given a three-year banning order after hurling racist abuse at a black player.

Jones, 22, of East Vines, Hendon, was seen to carry out an offensive monkey gesture towards Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku after he scored a goal for West Bromwich Albion against the Black Cats during a loan spell with the Midlands club last season.

Sunderland magistrates handed Jones an 18-month conditional discharge and imposed a three-year football banning order, which means he will not be able to attend any Premier League games.

And West Rainton man Peter Copeland avoided jail after being found guilty of sending racist tweets to former Newcastle United striker Demba Ba.

Sunderland supporter Copeland was given a four-month prison sentence at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to two offences under the Malicious Communication Act in February 2012.

District Judge Roger Elsey suspended the sentence for 18 months after hearing that Copeland, of Benridge Bank, deeply regretted his actions and had been offered a job.

Mr Grebby added: “Football fans should be aware that by being racist, you are breaking the law.

“I’ve heard some of the police officers talking about the plans and they say that a key part of it is about educating people, so hopefully it will change attitudes.”