London (AFP) – Stoke City midfielder Romaine Sawyers on Thursday welcomed an eight-week prison sentence given to a West Brom fan for racially abusing him online while he was playing for the club.
Simon Silwood, 50, was jailed over a “grossly offensive” Facebook post in which he said Sawyers should win the “Baboon d’Or”, a sarcastic reference to the Ballon d’Or trophy for the world footballer of the year.
Silwood denied the offence, telling police that the message, which followed a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City in January, was “stupid not racial”, adding autocorrect had changed the word “buffoon” to “baboon”.
The supporter, who has been banned for life by West Brom, was convicted last month at Walsall Magistrates’ Court, in central England, after District Judge Briony Clarke ruled he had meant the post to be offensive.
Passing sentence on Silwood at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, Clarke described it as a “serious offence”.
“There is no place for racism or racist abuse online,” she said. “This clearly in my view crosses the custody threshold. I assess the remorse you have for your actions as very minimal indeed.
“In my view it (the offence) falls into the category of greatest harm. We have to accept it had a wider impact and a substantial impact on Mr Sawyers.”
Midfielder Sawyers, who moved to Stoke on loan after West Brom were relegated from the Premier League last season, said the custodial sentence was justified. Both teams are currently in the second-tier English Championship.
“Racial abuse towards anyone, in any circumstance, is totally unacceptable and I hope this case will serve as a deterrent to others,” he said in a statement.
The 29-year-old St Kitts and Nevis international added: “It is widely accepted that social media companies must do more to stop the publication of racism on their platforms.
“I again urge them to take the necessary action required to prevent anyone from receiving the abuse I experienced.”
Earlier in September, another football fan was handed a suspended jail term for posting racist comments on social media, blaming three black players for England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
Scott McCluskey singled out Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho in an abusive Facebook message after they missed their penalties in a shootout at Wembley.