In what has been described as a “landmark ruling,” a 24-year-old British man was banned from every stadium in the UK for three years last Monday after he admitted to racially abusing Brentford striker, Ivan Toney. Besides the stadium ban, Antonio Neill also received a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years, Sky Sports reported. Neill is said to have racially abused the English player on Instagram in October last year.
The police subsequently launched an investigation into the incident after Toney, 26, shared the racist message that was directed at him in the wake of the incident, leading them to eventually locate Neill in the English town of Blyth. The punishment handed to Neill comes after he entered a guilty plea in January for sending an offensive message. The court’s decision was described as a “landmark ruling” by the Brentford and Northumberland Police because it is “the first of its kind to be issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act 2022”.
Neill is the first person to be punished under the act, and has been banned from stadiums of all Premier League, Championship, Leagues One and Two, and National League clubs. He has also been barred from attending England home internationals, qualifiers, and tournament matches, Sky Sports reported. Neill sent the racist messages to the Black soccer player via an Instagram account that he uses. Toney shared the offensive messages the day after his Brentford team scored Brighton 2-0; he scored both goals in that game.
Though Brentford coach, Thomas Frank, welcomed the punishment, he insisted it wasn’t stiff enough, particularly when another Black soccer player was allegedly racially abused during Manchester United’s match against Southampton on Sunday.
“It’s a very strong message,” Frank said. “Personally I’m very pleased that racial abuse is getting into court.
“I think the sentence is not hard enough, it could be harder. It’s a suspended sentence. But I think it’s a good step in the right direction to hopefully show the world that there’s no room for racial abuse.
“Hopefully it’s also a reminder to the social media companies that they can do even more. Also, the situation with Walker-Peters [the player who was racially abused on Sunday], what he experienced also, it’s very sad. It’s a constant development area for society. We need to be very aware of that.”
Sky Sports News senior reporter, Rob Dorsett, explained, the decision is the first of its kind because Neill, who is a Newcastle United fan, racially abused Toney – “a Brentford player, after the game between Brentford and Brighton.”
“Northumbria Police say this is different from all the other cases because the racist abuse wasn’t specifically connected to the football match,” Dorsett added.
“The Newcastle fan was watching the game but the unique factor here – and what’s different to all the other cases – is that the police felt this was not racist abuse directly related to football and yet the punishment is a football banning order.”