Boris Johnson Urges Parliament to Add Online Abuse to Reasons Fans Banned From Soccer Games

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday the government needed to take action after three Black members of England's national soccer team were targeted by racial abuse on social media, saying that online abuse should be added to the list of offenses for which fans can be banned from soccer matches.

Johnson said anyone found guilty of online racist abuse, as the authorities continue the investigation into the attacks against the three players connected to England's loss to Italy in the European soccer final, will be banned from further games.

Courts may issue an order that bans fans from attending if the fan is convicted of a "relevant offense" linked to a match, such as disorderly behavior or possession of weapons, and Johnson said the government will also add online abuse.

"What we are doing is taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning regime is changed so that if you are guilty of racist abuse online on football, then you will not be going to the match,'' Johnson said. "No ifs, no buts, no exemptions, no excuses."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government plans to add online abuse to a list of offenses that can ban fans from attending soccer games. Johnson gives an update on relaxing COVID restrictions a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room on Monday in London, England. Daniel Leal-Olivas/WPA Pool/Getty Images

While many fans have rallied around Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka since the players were targeted on social media, activists said racism in English soccer is a longstanding problem that authorities haven't done enough to address.

Sancho spoke out about the incident in an Instagram post on Wednesday, encouraging young players who have experienced similar abuse to stay strong and "keep chasing the dream."

"I'm not going [to] pretend that I didn't see the racial abuse that me and my brothers Marcus and Bukayo received after the game, but sadly it's nothing new," he wrote. "As a society we need to do better, and hold these people accountable."

Sunday's European Football Championship final was also marred by unruly behavior in central London and around Wembley Stadium, where ticketless fans stormed past police and into the game. Some observers have sharply criticized London's Metropolitan Police Service for failing to adequately prepare for what clearly would be a massive event.

The police department issued a statement Wednesday defending its actions, saying top brass had deployed "one of the most significant and comprehensive policing plans" ever rolled out for a soccer game.

Even so, some ticketless fans tried to push their way into stadium, injuring 19 police officers who were trying to control volatile crowds.

Police made 26 arrests at Wembley and another 25 in central London.

"I do not accept that the policing operation failed, and I standby the difficult decisions made by police officers and the Met's public order commanders,'' Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors said. "Without their immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned,''

The "ugly scenes at Wembley" will be reviewed by the Football Association and by police, Connors said.

"Where lessons can be learnt, we will work with partners to ensure that future matches are not disrupted by a group of hooligans who are fueled on alcohol," she said.

Soccer mural
England lost the Euro 2020 soccer championship final match to Italy on Sunday. A man cycles past a mural depicting England's manager Gareth Southgate, captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, from left, painted on a wall near Vinegar Yard in south London on Wednesday. Tony Hicks/AP Photo