Ivan Toney: Man banned from a ‘landmark’ stadium for racially abusing a Brentford striker

A man who racially abused Brentford striker Ivan Toney on social media has been banned for three years from all football grounds in the United Kingdom.

The order is the first issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act 2022.

Antonio Neill, 24, admitted sending an offensive message in January at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court.

Neill, of Blyth, Northumberland, was also sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for two years.

In addition to all domestic matches, Neill is barred from traveling abroad to watch international friendlies, qualification matches, and tournaments.

Last year, new legislation was introduced to broaden the scope of banning orders for online hate crimes.

“Discrimination has absolutely no place in any society, whether in our communities or online,” said Supt Scott Cowie, Northumbria Police’s hate crime lead.

“I hope this reinforces our commitment to taking action against anyone who commits a hate crime – it will not be tolerated, and we will do everything in our power to bring perpetrators to justice.”

Brentford manager Thomas Frank hopes the ruling demonstrates that social media companies can do “even more” to prevent abuse.

“It’s a strong message,” Frank said. “I’m glad that racial abuse is being addressed in court.

“I think the sentence is not hard enough, it could be harder – it’s a suspended sentence. However, I believe it is a positive step toward demonstrating to the world that racial abuse has no place.

“Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder to social media companies that they can do even more. It’s also very sad to hear about what happened to [Southampton’s Kyle] Walker-Peters. It is a constantly evolving area for society. We must be acutely aware of this.”

In October, Toney tweeted a screenshot of a direct message he received on Instagram, with police investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Neill apologised to Toney in court in January for sending the message, which was described by a judge as “exceptionally offensive” and with “racial overtones”.

After scoring the equalizer against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in January, Toney received racist and abusive messages on his Instagram account.

The ban imposed on Neill was dubbed a “landmark ruling” by Brentford.

“Ivan Toney has regularly been subjected to sickening racist abuse, and we want to see tough action taken against anyone found guilty of such abuse,” said a Brentford statement.

“The club firmly believes that racial abuse has no place in football, and we continue to support and implement a zero-tolerance policy toward any form of discriminatory behavior.”

Kick It Out, an organisation fighting discrimination in football, said: “Kick It Out welcomes the sentence handed to Antonio Neill today. This is a landmark decision that we hope will set the precedent for similar cases in the future.

“As footballers continue to experience racism and discrimination on social media, we hope this can be an important step towards understanding that online behaviour has real-life consequences, both for the abusers and their victims.

“We would like to thank Northumbria Police and Brentford FC for their work in this case and for highlighting that online abuse has no place in our society.

“It is critical that social media companies and the government now step up to implement meaningful reforms and legislation that protects people from online abuse.”

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