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People guilty of racist abuse of footballers online will be banned from matches, PM says

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Football banning orders will be changed to cover online racism in the wake of the abuse directed at England players, Boris Johnson has told MPs.

The prime minister said the government is “taking practical steps to ensure that the football banning order regime is changed”.

“So that if you are guilty of racist abuse online of footballers then you will not be going to the match. No ifs, no buts. No exemptions and no excuses,” he told the Commons.

“I repeat that I utterly condemn and abhor the racist outpourings that we saw on Sunday night,” Mr Johnson said, referencing the racist abuse on social media directed at England stars Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

The trio missed their spot kicks in England’s penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 at Wembley on Sunday.

The PM’s commitment follows on from Labour calling for football banning orders to be extended to cover online abuse.

Reacting to the news, the party’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: “If Boris Johnson wanted to extend Football Banning Orders to include online racism he could have done this a long time ago. When will he put words into actions?”

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Mr Johnson met with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram in Number 10 on Tuesday.

The PM said he “made it absolutely clear to them that we will legislate to address this problem in the Online Harms Bill”, warning: “Unless they get hate and racism off their platforms they will face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenues.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer challenged Mr Johnson on the issue as the pair clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He said the PM “can’t have it both ways”, pointing out that Mr Johnson at one stage failed to criticise supporters who jeered England players taking the knee to protest against racial injustice.

Responding to Sir Keir asking if he regretted this, Mr Johnson replied: “We made it absolutely clear that no one should boo the England team.”

Asked about the matter on 7 June, the PM’s spokesman told journalists that England fans should “get behind” the Three Lions but refused to condemn England supporters who had booed players for taking the knee before their Euro 2020 warm-up matches.

“The Prime Minister supports individuals’ rights to protest,” the spokesman said, adding: “On taking the knee, specifically, the Prime Minister is more focused on action rather than gestures.”

The Labour leader raised Priti Patel’s description of taking the knee as “gesture politics” – and England defender Tyrone Mings accusing the home secretary of having “stoked the fire”.