So-called football fan convicted of hate crime after making racist gestures at Rio Ferdinand
A so-called football fan has been convicted of a hate crime after making racist gestures toward former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.
Jamie Arnold, 33, of Stafford, was found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence during a Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club and Manchester United Football Club in May 2021.
Arnold, who sat with home fans at Molineux Stadium in the first socially-distanced return of Premier League football since the Covid-19 outbreak, denied the offence.
Throughout the match, which was broadcast on national television, Arnold made derogatory remarks and hand gestures at Mr Ferdinand, who was working as a pundit for BT Sport.
Arnold was arrested at the scene by officers with West Midlands Police.
He answered no comment when asked about his actions during police interview and formally denied the charge at court.
Arnold was caught making the racist gestures on the stadium’s CCTV cameras, while several witnesses sat in the stands that day also confirmed the events took place.
Mr Ferdinand said a group of supporters appeared to be more interested in him than the game, and when he was later informed of Arnold’s actions he was left feeling alarmed and physically sick.
The CPS’s review and West Midlands Police investigation sought to prove without doubt that Arnold made racist gestures towards the victim.
Today, a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court found Arnold unanimously guilty following a two-day trial.
Alistair Redford, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands, said: “Arnold made despicable racist gestures towards a victim who was just trying to do his job.
“I would like to thank the stewards whose quick-thinking actions ensured they could identify and remove Arnold from the stadium that day, and for Mr Ferdinand and witnesses who came forward to help us build as strong a case as possible.
“The CPS will always take a robust stance against those who commit football-related offences as we continue our work towards ensuring the sport is an inclusive and safe event for all.”
Douglas Mackay, CPS sports lead, said: “It is hugely disappointing to see a so-called football fan’s behaviour devolve into a derogatory hate crime and spoil what should have been a triumphant return of football following the pandemic.
“There’s no place for hate in the beautiful game and the perpetrators of such crimes can expect to be prosecuted.
“The CPS will continue to work alongside our footballing and police partners to stamp out racist behaviour and keep football safe and inclusive. We will not hesitate to prosecute supporters who commit hate crimes and cause distress to victims, innocent spectators and the players.”
A Kick It Out spokesperson said: "Kick It Out welcomes the guilty verdict handed to Arnold today. It is imperative that perpetrators of discriminatory abuse are held to account for their actions and we hope this result sends a strong statement that racism has no place in our, or in society.
"We commend the CPS and West Midlands Police for their work securing justice in this case and would urge authorities across the country to take similar incidents of discriminatory abuse just as seriously.
"We continue to work with partners across football to tackle discriminatory abuse as it happens and to ensure that victims receive the support they need. We would encourage anyone who witnesses discrimination of any sort in future to report it directly to us at Kick It Out."
If you see or hear racist incidents at football matches, please report this in confidence to a steward, the football club, police officers or Kick It Out.
Arnold will be sentenced at a later date.
Notes to editors
- Alistair Redford is a Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands.
- Jamie Arnold (12/02/90) was charged with causing racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress contrary to S3191((b) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and using threatening/abusive/insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment/alarm/distress.