Last Monday, a 24-year-old British man was barred from entering any stadium in the United Kingdom for three years after admitting to racially assaulting Brentford striker Ivan Toney. In addition to the stadium ban, Antonio Neill received a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years, according to Sky Sports. In October of last year, Neill is reported to have racially attacked the English player on Instagram.
After Toney, 26, posted the racist comment directed at him in the aftermath of the incident, police initiated an investigation, eventually leading them to Neill in the England town of Blyth. Neill was sentenced after entering a guilty plea in January for sending an abusive communication. The court’s decision was called as a “landmark ruling” by the Brentford and Northumberland Police because it is “the first of its sort to be made under the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act 2022”.
Neill is the first individual to face punishment under the statute, and he has been barred from all Premier League, Championship, League One and Two, and National League clubs’ stadiums. According to Sky Sports, he has also been forbidden from attending England home internationals, qualifiers, and tournament matches. Neill delivered the racist insults to the Black soccer player using his Instagram account. Toney sent out the insulting tweets the day after Brentford defeated 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.”