Premier League

Abusive football fans warned

New policies unveiled will look tackle abuse on social media and in stadiums.
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Football supporters who abuse players or fellow fans online have been warned they could face prosecution as lawyers and police unveil a new policy to tackle hooliganism.

New guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service said communications that include threats of violence or damage to property, specifically targeted individuals, or that may breach a court order should be 'prosecuted robustly'.

The latest policy, which also deals specifically with homophobic chanting, follows numerous high-profile cases involving Twitter, including threats made against feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and several female journalists.

CPS lead sports prosecutor Nick Hawkins said: "It's not just criminality in the stands that will be taken on. Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or supporters online.

"Decent football fans agree with what we're doing and those that thought football was an excuse for antisocial, violent or disorderly behavior now know they are going to get caught and banned.

"It's really encouraging that clubs are taking the responsibility of challenging inappropriate behavior as well and we work jointly with the FA and PFA to make sure we're all pulling in the same direction and making football the great sport it should be.

"As far as indecent chanting goes, the legislation already exists and has been an offense throughout this century. But we are now mentioning it specifically.

"This is because we are seeing people saying homophobic abuse is alright when they now accept racist abuse is not. There's no difference between the two so we think it is right to highlight it this season."

Hawkins added that pitch invasions and the use of flares or fireworks could also result in prosecution.

"It is illegal to enter or attempt to enter a stadium in possession of a flare or firework and these offenses have and will be prosecuted," he added.

"The same goes for pitch invasions involving assaults on players; it is not behavior that will be tolerated."

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