Football supporters must stand up to racism, says cop who got racist fan locked up

A police officer whose investigation led to a West Bromwich Albion fan being jailed for racially abusing his own team’s player, says it is crucial people stand up and report racism.

West Brom Simon Silwood was jailed for racially abusing a player on his own team: Jacob King/PA Wire
West Brom Simon Silwood was jailed for racially abusing a player on his own team: Jacob King/PA Wire

Simon Silwood was jailed in September for racially abusing West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers

Pc Stuart Ward, the UK’s first dedicated football hate crime officer, investigated him for posting racist messages about midfielder Romaine Sawyers in a social media group.

Silwood made an abusive comment after the Baggies’ 5-0 defeat to Manchester City on January 26.

The 50-year-old from Randall Close in Kingswinford, Dudley, was jailed for eight weeks, with the judge telling him his remorse was “very minimal indeed”.

Pc Ward said the report came in from West Brom after the player had been told about the comment. He said it was vital other footballers, as well as supporters, report abuse. Speaking after the court case, he said: “I was at the football club at the time and sat down with the player and he showed me the screenshots,” he said.

“We worked with the football club and they checked their database and he was on their system. It give us an address and we arrested him the same day. I’ve seen quite a few offensive comments and the levels are very similar, of a racist nature. We know it’s out there and it is deeply offensive.”

Silwood told police his message was “stupid not racial” and blamed autocorrect for changing a word.

But District Judge Briony Clarke dismissed Silwood as “not a credible witness” – adding that the defendant meant the post to be “grossly offensive”.

“Whether it’s racism, disability abuse, or other kinds of abuse – it’s a hate crime, it’s abuse and it’s offensive – and it will not be tolerated at this case proves,” added Pc Ward. “Where we’re able to identify the person we will take that issue to court.

“For me, although it’s highlighted extremely in football it’s not a football issue, it’s a societal issue. We need to show it will not be tolerated. It should have never have been tolerated in the 70s and 80s with the offensive gestures.”

Pc Ward said people are now more confident in “standing up and reporting” racist abuse, and commended Romaine Sawyers, who has also played for Shrewsbury Town and Walsall, for taking the case to court.

He said: “I hope it gives confidence to the general public and to different communities, because if you’re subject to abuse, whether it’s a footballer or a member of the public, it will be investigated exactly the same way.”

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