England manager Gareth Southgate believes that the stadium ban in Hungary and the prison sentence for a West Brom fan show that a “more tolerant society” is emerging.
Last week, FIFA ordered Hungary to play two home matches behind closed doors, including one with a two-year suspension, and imposed a fine of 200,000 Swiss francs (over £ 158,000).
It followed accusations of racist behavior in the 4-0 World Cup qualifying loss to the Three Lions in Budapest earlier this month.
Then on Thursday, the same day Southgate named his 23-man squad for the qualifying double against Andorra and at home against Hungary – a man was sentenced to eight weeks in jail for West’s midfielder’s online abuse Brom Romaine Sawyers.
Southgate declined to criticize Hungary ahead of the September 3 game, citing racist abuse targeting Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho after their missed shots on goal in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy as proof that ‘there are similar problems at home.
When asked if he welcomed the tougher measures taken with the recent accusations and if he thought Hungary’s punishment was severe enough, he told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Well I think that it is very difficult to gauge what is the right level of punishment or reprimand for things.
“Where we’ve come from as a team over the last few years is that we think it’s important to raise awareness about the issues, we’ve tried to behave responsibly about it and we’ve got the feel that we are moving towards a more tolerant approach to society and people recognize that these things are unacceptable.
“So we could debate a level of fine or a ban for hours and hours and [it is] very difficult to judge this, but I think the most important factor is that action is taken and I feel like we are moving towards a more tolerant society. “
West Brom supporter Simon Silwood, 50, has been jailed and ordered to pay £ 500 in compensation for a ‘grossly offensive’ Facebook post. Silwood was arrested after posting a social media post saying Sawyers set to win the ‘Golden Baboon’ – an insensitive reference to the Ballon d’Or trophy – after his side’s 5-0 loss to Manchester City at the Hawthorns January 26.
He denied the offense, blaming predictor text and telling police that his phone had auto-corrected the word “jester” to “baboon”.
Silwood, who was banned for life by West Brom, was sentenced in an earlier hearing in Walsall Magistrates’ Court after District Judge Briony Clarke ruled he was “not a credible witness “and wanted the post to be offensive.
“I just learned the details of the case,” Southgate added. “Look, I think all I would say is that it’s important that we take online abuse very seriously, abuse in society in general. I think we recognize the importance of that.
“We want a tolerant society and I think that’s where we’re headed. For me, those are the important messages right now.”
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