A man who racially abused Brentford striker Ivan Toney on social media last October has officially been banned from every soccer stadium in the U.K. for three years in a "landmark ruling," the Premier League football club announced on Tuesday.
Last October, following a match against Brighton in which Toney scored two goals, the striker shared a screenshot of an offensive direct message he received on Instagram.
"I wasn't even going to post this but I woke up angry," Toney wrote.
The message, which was seen by authorities as a hate crime, was sent by 24-year-old Antonio Neill. Northumbria Police, supported by the Metropolitan Police, launched a full investigation after Toney shared the screenshot. The judge looking at the case described the message as "exceptionally offensive" and said it had "racial overtones." Neill pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 and also showed regret for his actions.
"I'm sorry for what I said to Ivan," Neill said in court, as reported by BBC. "I'm disgusted and ashamed and want to become a better person."
In this week's press release, Brentford said Neill is getting a four-month jail sentence suspended for two years, along with a three-year football banning order that would prohibit him from traveling abroad to watch English international friendlies, qualification matches and tournaments. This punishment is the first of its kind under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
"Discrimination has absolutely no place in any society, whether out in our communities or online," Northumbria Police Superintendent Scott Cowie said in a statement. "I am therefore delighted that the seriousness of Neill's offence has been reflected with this banning order, which forbids him from attending any regulated football in the United Kingdom.
"I hope this reinforces our commitment to taking action against anybody who commits a hate crime – it will not be tolerated and we will do all we can to put perpetrators before the courts."