Eight men have been arrested and four others interviewed under caution as part of an investigation into racist abuse targeted at a Premier League football player, British Police announced on Friday.
The investigation was launched after the April 11 Premier League clash between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur during which one of the players from the London side was targeted with “a series of highly offensive and racist remarks on Twitter,” the Metropolitan police said in a statement.
“Through painstaking police work, the anonymous social media users were identified and tracked down,” it added.
The arrests and interviews were conducted throughout the UK with four men from Wales, two from Dorset, and others from Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Cheshire and Bristol.
Eleven of the twelve men are aged below 32. The remaining one is 63.
“With a busy summer of football approaching we are committed to driving out this type of racist behavior — it has no place in football,” Detective Sergeant Matt Simpson for the Met’s public order crime team, said.
“This action makes it abundantly clear that police will not stand for racist thuggery, even if it is committed online. The posts, all of which were on Twitter, were vulgar and were utterly unacceptable. There is no safe haven for this type of abusive behavior,” he added.
Police did not name the player in the statement, but after the match Tottenham Hotspur condemned the “abhorrent abuse” directed at its South Korean forward Son Heung-min.
“We shall now undertake a full review alongside the Premier League to determine the most effective action moving forward,” it also said.
Later in the month, British football players led a weekend-long social media boycott to protest racist abuse on the platforms.
Kick It Out, the anti-racism charity which spearheaded the last month’s social media blackout, said on Friday that police’s announcement of arrests “sends a powerful message that online abuse is unacceptable and those found guilty will face real-life consequences.”
“It’s also important that we remain focused on the welfare of those who play, watch and work in football, and receive abuse, and we will continue to offer our support to those who need it,” CEO Tony Burnett added.