Soccer

FA funding police unit to tackle social media abusers during Euro 2024

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham has laid out the strategy ahead of England’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia on Sunday.

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham
Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham (Steve Welsh/PA)

The Football Association is funding a police unit to ensure social media abusers throughout England’s Euro 2024 campaign are prosecuted.

Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were all targets of racial abuse after missing penalties in the shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

Police chiefs have been pro-active ahead of the upcoming tournament, visiting the England squad at St George’s Park in March.

England’s Jadon Sancho stands dejected after missing from the penalty spot in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out loss to Italy
England’s Jadon Sancho stands dejected after missing from the penalty spot in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out loss to Italy (Mike Egerton/PA)

Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, told the PA news agency last month that “it is better if you can deal with something in advance rather than after the event”.

And the amount police can do has now been boosted by FA backing, as chief executive Mark Bullingham laid out the strategy ahead of England’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia on Sunday.

“Now we are doing things differently,” Bullingham said.

“In the past what we did was put together all the data, effectively an evidence pack, to give to the police to prosecute but this time we have gone a stage further where we are actually funding within the British Police a unit that will then prosecute.

“What we don’t want to do is create a pack that we then give to the police for them to prosecute but they don’t have the resource to actually take that forward so we are actually paying for the prosecution to then happen and funding the police to make sure if there are instances of some examples we have seen before, that they got prosecuted.”

Head of UK Football Policing Mark Roberts speaks during a Euro 2024 pre-tournament media briefing at the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in London.
Head of UK Football Policing Mark Roberts speaks during a Euro 2024 pre-tournament media briefing at the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in London. (Victoria Jones/PA)

Bullingham said the funding resource would cost the FA “a ballpark figure of around £25,000” but that would fluctuate depending on the number of investigations that take place.

“What it does mean is there is a police resource to go for it,” he added.

“Whereas beforehand you could take it so far by giving them the evidence pack but if they haven’t got the resource to take it forward and investigate from their side and prosecute then it is hard – however, from our side it is completely inexcusable.”

Bullingham, meanwhile, praised match-going fans after it emerged the Group C clash against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen will be the only game of the group stages where low-alcohol beer is set to be sold.

“Over the last few years, we’ve shown our fans have been great supporters of the team and behaved well,” he said.

“Obviously you are going to have a big volume of people and that’s maybe a factor they need to consider. We are expecting – I’m not really quite sure how anyone really measures this – up to 500,000 people estimated.

“Understandably with that volume of people, they will be looking at that. What I would say is, over the last few years our England fans have been absolutely brilliant support to us, particularly in the stadium.

“There are a lot of people going to come out here. The best thing that the fans can do to help us do well in this tournament is be a tribute to their country

“The German police have proved they are really good at policing football tournaments so there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case again. But really the main message is: get behind the team and support in the right way.”