Lifelong Manchester United supporter Ryan Butler was banned from attending matches after the club incorrectly alleged he had been involved in online racist abuse towards Tottenham’s Heung-min Son
Manchester United have issued an apology to a fan who was wrongly banned for alledged racist abuse.
Lifelong supporter Ryan Butler was told via email in April that he had made derogatory remarks on social media aimed at Tottenham Hotspur forward Heung-min Son.
The Red Devils banned five other fans, three of which were season ticket holders and two official members.
United suspended Butler’s club membership, ability to book tickets and access to Old Trafford after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘s side had beaten Spurs 3-1 in the Premier League and Son had scored the opening goal before a second-half comeback.
Butler, from County Armagh in Northern Ireland, initially appealed the ban but it was rejected, as he told the Belfast Telegraph.
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He then lodged an access request to the GDPR, being shown a screenshot of an abusive tweet from a Twitter account with the same surname.
“I don’t even have Twitter,” Butler told the Northern Irish outlet. “They were unwilling to give me any other information than what was shown in that screenshot.”
In a statement, the club said: “In this case, we regrettably made a mistake and the ban was revoked. We apologise to Mr Butler.”
The Red Devils hold a “zero-tolerance policy against discriminatory abuse and a clear sanctions policy against any fans committing such behaviour.”
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“We take reasonable steps to verify the identity of those suspected of abuse and everyone sanctioned has the right of appeal,” it added.
“This incident highlights that fact that identifying those responsible for online abuse is made more difficult given social media users are not required to verify their ID.”
The club concluded: “We will continue to work with social media platforms to root out abuse and hold the right people accountable.”
Ahead of the 2020-21 season, the Premier League announced that anyone who engages in racist abuse – or other forms of discriminatory behaviour – will be banned from all top-flight grounds.
The new sections came under the “No Room for Racism” strategy, a bid to streamline punishment rather than individual clubs being left to make decisions on their own supporters.
Following the European Championships, social media giant Twitter announced the results of its internal analysis into abuse directed at England players.
The platform said they had removed 1,622 messages containing racist language from its platform across the 24 hours during and after the final between England and Italy, in which a host of Black players such as United duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subject to abuse.
Twitter claimed that the largest number of abusive messages came from the United Kingdom but that only 2% of them received more than 1,000 views.
Social media companies have been under pressure from the Premier League and other sporting organisations to do more to tackle racist abuse.
The notion have users needing submit more identification has been discussed but Twitter said that their findings showed that ID verification “would have been unlikely to prevent the abuse from happening.”