A football fan has been convicted of racially harassing Rio Ferdinand at a Premier League game.
Jamie Arnold hurled racist remarks and hand gestures at the former England defender who was working as a pundit for BT Sport during the match between Wolves and Manchester United on May 23, 2021.
The 33-year-old had denied a racially motivated public order offense but was unanimously convicted after a two-day trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Wednesday and will be sentenced on December 8, West Midlands Police said.
PC Stuart Ward, the UK’s first dedicated hate crime officer in a West Midlands Police football unit, said: “Abusing someone because of the color of their skin is disgusting and can never be tolerated.” Arnold is old enough to know such an appalling act Behavior is inexcusable and certainly will not be tolerated.
“I know firsthand how painful it is to be a victim of racism while criminals jeopardize their own ambitions by getting a criminal record. I would like to thank Rio for his assistance with this investigation. Through his support, we have ensured that a man carries this belief.”
Arnold, from Stone, Staffordshire, was arrested at the scene following the offense which took place during the first game at the Molineux with fans in attendance since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Crown Prosecution Service said he was caught on CCTV making racist gestures and several witnesses saw him in the stands.
Ferdinand said in an earlier trial that he did not see Arnold’s gestures, but he did notice a fan’s “more aggressive body language.” Arnold had previously been banned from matches for three years after being found guilty of homophobic insults and gestures simulating obstruction during the same match.
He was also ordered to pay almost £900 in fines and court costs, West Midlands Police said.
A spokesman for anti-discrimination organization Kick It Out said: “Kick It Out welcomes today’s guilty verdict against Arnold. It is imperative that perpetrators of discriminatory abuse are held accountable for their actions, and we hope this outcome is a clear sign that racism has no place in our society.
“We commend the CPS and West Midlands Police for their work in ensuring justice in this case and call on authorities across the country to take similar incidents of discriminatory abuse just as seriously. “We continue to work with partners across football to immediately tackle discriminatory abuse and ensure victims receive the support they need. We would encourage anyone who witnesses discrimination of any kind in the future to report it directly to Kick It Out.”