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Football fan sentenced for online racial abuse of Rio Ferdinand

|News, Hate crime

A so-called football supporter who racially abused a famous ex-player on Twitter after the Euros 2020 final, has today (1 March 2022) been sentenced for these offences.

Robert Whippe, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a grossly offensive message following England’s defeat in July last year at St Albans Magistrates Court. After losing the penalty shoot-out to Italy, Whippe took to Twitter to post his views about Rio Ferdinand’s commentary of the match using racist derogatory emojis. Whippe was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

Whippe was interviewed by the police under caution and admitted posting the two tweets but denied any racist intent and claimed the emojis were chosen at random.

The CPS review of the case and Hertfordshire Police investigation sought to prove that the use of these emojis is most commonly connected with racism against black people.

Matthew Gauntlett of the CPS said: “Whippe committed a racist attack on Rio Ferdinand as he was giving his expert opinion and commentary on the Euro 2020 final. It was completely unwarranted and part of a disease in football that the CPS is playing its part to eradicate. I would like to thank Rio Ferdinand for his cooperation and support for this prosecution in what must have been a distressing time for him.”

The CPS is currently working with the police, clubs, player bodies and organisations, like the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association to explain how these crimes are prosecuted and what information is needed to pass the charging threshold and build strong cases.

Douglas Mackay of the CPS said: “Hate crime has no place within society let alone sport. Recently we have seen an increase of reports in racist abuse online and in stadiums in football matches and we are determined to play our part in cutting this out.

“If you see, read, or hear of any offensive racist and homophobic language, please report it to the police who will investigate. And if our legal tests of sufficient evidence and public interest are met we will seek to serve justice through the prosecution of these horrendous actions.”

Notes to editors

  • Matthew Gauntlett is the Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS Thames and Chiltern 
  • Douglas Mackay is the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands  and CPS Sports lead prosecutor
  • Robert Whippe (DOB:30/4/67) pleaded guilty to two charges of causing to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network a message that was grossly offensive. He has been sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment suspended for 12 months and given 160 hours of unpaid work to do as well as to serve 20 days of rehabilitation activity. Whippe will have to pay costs of £85, £128 for victim support, and £120 compensation for a symbolic award of distress caused. Also there was a sentence uplift from eight to 12 weeks for the hate crime element
  • Please read the Director of Public Prosecutions on hate crime in football.

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