Anti-gay fans and 'online hooligans' face prosecution
New guidelines target homophobic chants and abuse by football supporters on social media
FOOTBALL fans have been warned they will be prosecuted for 'online hooliganism' under new legal guidelines that come into force this season.
As the debate over internet bullying in all areas of society continues, football supporters have been told that abuse of players and rival fans on forums and social media sites like Twitter will no longer be tolerated.
There will also be a crackdown on homophobic chanting at matches as part of the policy drawn up by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
The new guidelines also aim to deal with other "emerging challenges", which include attacks on players on the pitch and the use of flares and fireworks in the stands.
"The new guidance comes after a series of high-profile cases involving Twitter, including threats made against the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, the MP Stella Creasy and several female journalists," notes The Guardian.
"[There is] a place for humour in football but where the line between humour and offensive behaviour is crossed then positive action will be taken," says the CPS.
Nick Hawkins, lead sports prosecutor at the CPS, told the BBC: "Some fans seem to think that the normal rules of society are suspended when they go inside a football ground. We see vile chanting that has no place in any walk of society. We're seeing people abuse social media to get at players and other fans. And, sadly, we've seen an increase in pyrotechics ... so we are just reinforcing to fans what's acceptable and what isn't."
Metro notes that supporters who fall foul of the new rules governing Twitter and Facebook could find themselves in front of the courts and banned from travelling to the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
The warning to fans comes after CPS said earlier this year that internet threats of violence or damage to property aimed at individuals should be "prosecuted robustly". ·