Racist football fan jailed and banned from watching matches for seven years for Rio Ferdinand abuse

081223 RIO FERDINAND - ITV News Central - Mike Egerton/PA Images/West Midlands Police - Ellen Knight
Jamie Arnold, aged 33, from Stone in Staffordshire, was convicted of racially aggravated harassment. Credit: PA Images/West Midlands Police

A football fan has been sentenced to six months in jail and a seven year ban from attending football matches after racially abusing Rio Ferdinand.

Wolverhampton Wanderers fan Jamie Arnold, aged 33, from Stone in Staffordshire, was convicted in November 2023 of racially aggravated harassment and using threatening and abusive words and behaviour to abuse the pundit.

Mr Ferdinand was working for BT Sport (now TNT Sports) covering a game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at Molineux, Wolves' home stadium, on May 23 2021.

Although Mr Ferdinand had not witnessed the abuse, he told court he felt 'sick' and 'distressed' when he was told what had happened.

In his victim impact statement, Mr Ferdinand said: "Still to this day I do not know why I was abused at the Molineux on the 23rd May 2021, this abuse was unprovoked and completely unacceptable.

"I accept as an ex-professional football player there will be supporters who will voice opinions about me or whilst I am working on TV, what I don’t accept is that the opinions or gestures made about me or towards me should be abusive and racist where comments are made regarding the colour of my skin and my background."

He added that Arnold "showed a complete lack of respect for me, my family, Wolves FC and everyone associated to football" and that he "needs to understand how they made me feel and most importantly take responsibility for their actions.

"I have worked extremely hard in my life to get to where I am in my career and never thought an incident like this would have such an impact on my life and on my career. 

"I am pursuing this case to court because I strongly believe something needs to happen to eradicate racism not only from football but from all forms of society and therefore put my faith in the criminal justice system to ensure this happens."

Former footballers Rio and Anton Ferdinand have both been the victims of online abuse. Credit: PA

In a further statement, he said: "Racism will only be eradicated when we all work together as a society.

"The prosecution wouldn't have been possible without all the help and support from the witnesses, Wolves fans and staff that came forward to testify in court.

"Special thank you to Police Constable Stuart Ward, my family and my team at New Era!"

PC Stuart Ward is the Football Hate Crime Officer for West Midlands Police, the first ever person to be appointed to the role in the UK.

Speaking to ITV News Central, PC Ward said: "We want people to take note of cases of this nature so we can say to people that we take all reports of this crime very seriously.

"Whether it's Rio Ferdinand or a supporter at a football club, they're treated exactly the same. I will always make contact with them, I will always find out what's gone on, find out what their wishes are. They might not want the matter to go to court.

"But that changed [in this instance] with one individual, Jamie Arnold, who started to hurl racist abuse and racist gestures towards [Mr Ferdinand]."

Watch PC Stuart Ward's interview with ITV News Central, where he explains how West Midlands Police deal with hate crime incidents, and how he's trying to educate the younger generation.

PC Ward added: "That was seen by supporters in the vicinity, it was seen by Mr Ferdinand's close protection officers, and it was seen by stewards at the football club.

"And they all reported the matter to other stewards, which then went into the control room, where the safety team operate."

But it's not just about dealing with hate crime incidents - PC Ward says it's important to educate younger generations to try and prevent them from happening at all.

He says: "So that is big stuff around education, and going into schools and colleges, football clubs, academies, working with a younger generation to try and raise awareness to try and improve education around the nature of these offences, certainly how they can be reported, and the importance of reporting them.

"But also showing individuals that there are consequences, and if you are subject to this behaviour, you know, you can go to court, you can be convicted, which can have a massive impact on jobs, travel, friends, your social aspect of life.

"So we try and do that education piece to try and deter people, so it makes them think that 'if I am considering behaving in this manner at football or outside of football, there are consequences.'

"And hopefully that does have an impact on people."

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