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Owen Jones’ attacker targeted columnist over ‘LGBT and left-wing beliefs’, judge rules



A football hooligan attacked Guardian columnist Owen Jones in August last year because of his political beliefs and his sexuality, a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court has ruled.

James Healy, 40, had previously admitted to launching a “frenzied” attack on the writer outside the Lexington pub in Islington, north London last year.

However he denied the incident was motivated by Mr Jones’ sexuality or political beliefs – claiming instead that he did not know who his victim was, and that the columnist had spilled his drink without apologising.


But police found an amount of far-right paraphernalia at his home.

The left-wing activist told the court he has been the subject of an “unrelenting” campaign of abuse by far-right sympathisers, including daily death threats.

Mr Jones said: “I’m an unapologetic socialist, I’m an anti-racist, I’m an anti-fascist and I’ve consistently used my profile to advocate left-wing causes.”

The victim suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head, and bruises all down his body in the assault during his birthday night out on 17 August.

The court heard Jones published his first book, Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class, in 2011 and landed a job as a columnist with The Independent the following year.

He moved to The Guardian in 2014 and frequently appears on radio and television on programmes including Newsnight, Question Time and Good Morning Britain.

Mr Jones has almost one million Twitter followers, 125,000 followers on Instagram and 350,000 followers on Facebook.

“What I use these platforms for is to advocate left-wing ideas and a passion and unwavering commitment to opposing racism, fascism, Islamophobia and homophobia,” he said.

He added: “I frequently post on LGBTQ rights – I felt a responsibility because The Guardian didn’t have any other LGBTQ columnists, I even have the Pride flag on my Twitter bio.

“Almost every single day I am the subject of an unrelenting campaign [of abuse] by far-right sympathisers.”

He said he received death threats on a daily basis, adding: “It’s the combination of being left-wing, gay, anti-fascist – that’s everything the far-right hate.


Owen Jones on rise of the far-right: ‘we need an urgent wake-up call’

“They’ve come to see me as this hate figure in their ranks.”

Mr Jones said he was regularly targeted online by supporters of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and right-wing movement the Democratic Football Lads Alliance.

Last year, The Guardian hired a security team and commissioned a report because of the rising threats against Mr Jones online.

When asked about the claim that he had spilled Healy’s drink, Mr Jones said: “That absolutely did not happen.”

Following Healy’s arrest, a search of his home revealed a photograph of him performing a Nazi salute.

The court heard that the photo showed Healy as a teenager but had been printed out in 2015.

Healy, a Chelsea fan, also had a football hooligan flag adorned with SS symbols and a collection of pin badges linked to white supremacist groups.

One of the items bore the name of the Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, whose stated aims include “execute all queers”, the court heard.

A birthday card, featuring a St George’s flag, a skull and crossbones and the words “You have been nominated and dealt with by the Chelsea Headhunters”, in reference to another hooligan firm, was also recovered.

In his evidence, Healy denied holding extreme right-wing views and said the items found at his home were mementos from his time in the Chelsea Youth Firm when he was younger.

“I’m a hoarder. I never throw anything away, I just had them all that time tucked away in the back of a drawer.”

He said the flag and pin badges were part of a wider collection of Chelsea FC memorabilia that the police had not seized and he was not aware of their connection to the far right.

He said: “Bearing in mind they came into my possession in 1998, there was no internet back then – the information now is easily available. As far as I knew, they were connected to football and football violence.”

The court heard that Healy has a string of convictions for football violence and is currently subject to a football banning order for encroaching on a pitch.

Asked if he held homophobic or racist views, he replied: “No, it’s 2020.”

Healy said that, in the photograph in which he is allegedly performing a Nazi salute, his arm is held out to the right to show off his Chelsea Youth Firm tattoo.

“I’ve looked up the Nazi salute online, I’ve never seen a picture where their arm is out to the side – it’s always out in front,” he said.

He added: “I’ve got a cigarette in my hand.”

Healy, from Portsmouth, is due to be sentenced on February 11 along with Charlie Ambrose, 30, from Brighton, and Liam Tracey, 34, from Camden, who have previously pleaded guilty to affray over the incident.

Ambrose and Tracey previously both denied a charge of ABH and the charge was left to lie on file, with prosecutors accepting their actions were not motivated by homophobia.

Additional reporting by Press Association



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Americas World

‘Targeted’ Shooting in Ottawa Leaves One Dead and at Least 3 Injured, Police Say


At least one person was killed and three others injured in a shooting on a residential street in Ottawa on Wednesday, the authorities in the Canadian capital said.

Though initial alerts sent out around 8 a.m. ET suggested a gunman was at large on the 400 block of Gilmour Street, near the city center, the Ottawa Police later said they believed it was a “targeted shooting” that unfolded both inside and outside a home.

“It wasn’t an active shooter running around shooting people,” said Constable Amy Gagnon of the Ottawa Police. “It was targeted.”

She said the police were still investigating what led to the shooting, which occurred about half a mile from Parliament Hill, the home of the country’s legislature. The police said they were still looking for at least one gunman.

Two people were brought to the Ottawa Hospital and were in critical condition, said Michaela Schreiter, a spokeswoman for the hospital. And a 15-year-old boy was brought to CHEO, a pediatric hospital and research center in Ottawa, said Patrick Moore, a hospital spokesman. The boy is in stable condition, Mr. Moore said.

One person was pronounced dead at the scene, the police said.

The shooting was reported on a residential street near a commercial area in the Centretown neighborhood lined with casual restaurants, big retail stores and grocers.

Maria Cramer contributed reporting.



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Sport

Bristol Rovers fined £7,500 after fans targeted Brighton with homophobic chants



Bristol Rovers have been fined £7,500 and ordered to implement an action plan after some of their supporters conducted homophobic chanting during the Carabao Cup clash with Brighton in August.

Rovers admitted a charge of failing to ensure that its spectators conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and refrained from using abusive and/or insulting words, which included a reference, whether express or implied, to sexual orientation.

The incident occurred during Rovers’ 2-1 home defeat to Premier League side Brighton in the second round of the Carabao Cup on 27 August.

The police report from the game said a large number of younger Bristol Rovers fans were involved in the chanting, and the commission found evidence of “four or five audible chants each lasting for a relatively short period of time resulting in a considerable cumulative total of inappropriate chanting”.

The commission also said there was “no doubt” that there were “a string of failures in Bristol Rovers’ delivery of proper and safe stewarding”.

Rovers were praised for the steps they have since taken in addressing the issues, but have been ordered to implement a 12-point action plan.

Steps include to initiate a review into the quality of steward training, for Rovers’ safety officer to visit other clubs to obtain best practice policies and for them to work more closely with anti-discrimination group Kick It Out.

PA



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Politics

Thomas Barrack, a Trump Confidant, Is Targeted by an Investor


Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the chairman of President Trump’s inaugural committee, is under pressure from an activist investor to resign as chief executive of Colony Capital, a real estate investment firm he founded.

Blackwells Capital sent a searing letter to Colony on Tuesday, demanding that Mr. Barrack be replaced after Colony’s stock price plunged over the last three years. The investment firm also cited two federal investigations of the inaugural committee, calling them a distraction for Mr. Barrack.

“Colony’s board has given Tom Barrack too much deference and too much latitude for too long,” Blackwells’ founder, Jason Aintabi, said in the letter. “His continued, imperial reign over the company damages its credibility and business prospects, and creates a tremendous overhang on the stock.”

Blackwells listed several reasons for Mr. Barrack’s ouster, including an ill-fated three-way merger in 2017 with NorthStar Asset Management and NorthStar Realty Finance that Mr. Barrack orchestrated.

“Since then, Colony’s share price has fallen 66 percent, destroying more than $6 billion of shareholder wealth,” Blackwells said.

Blackwells owns just 1.85 percent of Colony, but has successfully mounted activist campaigns before, notably against Supervalu, a supermarket chain based in Minnesota. Activist investors often buy small stakes in companies and then try to rally the support of other shareholders to their cause.

As part of the shake-up, Blackwells is also seeking to nominate five new members to Colony’s board and is pressing the company to sell assets and repurchase shares.

In a statement on Tuesday, Colony noted that Blackwells was involved in naming three directors this year. It also pointed to a number of steps that Colony had taken to cut costs, simplify its business and shift its focus to “digital infrastructure,” which includes data centers and cellphone towers.

It also said it would review Blackwells’ board nominees.

Mr. Barrack had announced succession plans at Colony: Marc Ganzi, a co-founder of Digital Bridge, which Colony acquired in June, will replace Mr. Barrack in 2021. But Blackwells, noting that Mr. Ganzi is a friend of Mr. Barrack’s, said the timeline was not quick enough.

The inaugural committee that was led by Mr. Barrack, a billionaire and a friend of Mr. Trump’s, is facing federal investigations in New York and Washington, as well as one by New Jersey’s attorney general, into how the fund spent the record $107 million it raised for Mr. Trump’s swearing-in celebrations.

He has also come under the scrutiny of federal investigators looking into possible foreign influence into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“Mr. Barrack is undoubtedly distracted by at least two congressional investigations and at least one reported criminal investigation into his political and personal activities, including as chairman of the inaugural committee for President Trump and as a man who sought a special role within the Trump administration,” the Blackwells letter stated.

The federal inquiries have gone on for more than a year, but Mr. Barrack has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Colony was in talks in 2017 to buy some or all of the assets of the Weinstein Company, which was struggling to contain the fallout from allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein, the studio’s co-founder. But after a closer examination of the deal, Colony walked away from its bid.



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Business

Juul Says Its Focus Was Smokers, but It Targeted Young Nonsmokers


“They had yet to see the fruits of their investment, given what the opportunity was, and it was unclear for how long vaping was going to be lightly regulated,” said Scott Dunlap, the chief operating officer at the time. “They were excited and pushing hard.”

Fidelity declined to comment.

The Juul, which looked unlike any other e-cigarette and delivered a far more powerful nicotine punch, was supposed to be the hit product for the company, then named Pax Labs, but a few months in, it appeared to be a bust. Convenience stores and vape shops were not getting their orders because of supply chain problems. Manufacturing defects left some customers with bad batteries, or worse, a condition nicknamed JIM — juice in mouth — with no one at the company quite sure how much of the toxic nicotine substance could be safely ingested.

In a meeting in San Francisco in the fall of 2015, the board of directors decided to remove Mr. Monsees as chief executive, dismiss other senior leaders and effectively take over the company. It would be 10 months before they named another C.E.O.

“I was in that first meeting where you tell the board, ‘We aren’t going to hit the numbers. There are issues; there are problems in the supply chain.’ Not a lot of good news,” said Mr. Dunlap, who said he had advised the company to slow down and take the time needed to fix the problems. He was fired the next day.

The board meeting, which has not been previously reported, was a turning point for the company.

Over the next few years, the company — which became Juul Labs after splitting from Pax in 2017 — would reignite the stale e-cigarette business, grabbing more than 75 percent of the vaping market and tallying more than $1 billion in sales in 2018. At the end of last year, it was valued at $38 billion, more than the Ford Motor Company.

From 2016 to 2018, the years Juul’s growth became astronomical, the number of adult nonsmokers who began using e-cigarettes doubled in the United States, according to an analysis of federal survey data by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. The study estimates that six million adults were introduced to nicotine via e-cigarettes.



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Politics

Black, asian and ethnic minorities more likely to be targeted in stop-and-search, Home Office report finds



More people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are likely to be targeted under relaxed stop-and-search rules, despite not having committed crimes, an official report has said.

Evidence also suggested “changes in the level of stop and search have, at best, only minimal effects on violent crime”, according to the equality impact assessment published by the Home Office, which rolled back restrictions on the “controversial” tactic as part of a bid to crack down on knife crime and violence in August. 

The powers make it easier for officers to turn to stop-and-search under section 60 (s60) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, after conditions imposed in 2014 when Theresa May was home secretary – which saw a rise in arrests and fall in use of the measure – were lifted.


The report warned the relaxed conditions could also create “broader issues” with trust in police among the public.

Under existing measures, evidence pointed to a “disparity in the use of s60s on individuals from BAME communities, especially black men compared with white men”, the findings suggested, adding: “It is possible that this disparity is at least in part a result of discrimination/stereotyping on the part of officers and forces carrying out searches under s60.”

Looking at possible effects of relaxed conditions, the report said: “If we are to assume that disparity rates in the use of s60 persist, then it is likely more BAME individuals are searched under this power despite not committing any offences.

“Given the potentially negative impact on trust in the police that an increase in stop and search might have, this would probably risk having a negative effect on a part of the community where trust/confidence levels are typically low. Since trust in the police and co-operation with them is often necessary for effective community policing, such changes may create broader issues.”

Section 60 powers give officers the right to search people in a defined area during a specific time period when they believe serious violence will occur.

They can look for weapons before they can be used, or those used in a recent attack.

The changes mean officers can stop and search anyone in a designated area “without needing serious grounds for suspicion if serious violence is anticipated” and there now only needs to be a reasonable belief an incident involving serious violence “may” rather than “will” occur.

Inspectors and superintendents can authorise the move rather than needing approval from a senior colleague.

It can be in force for 24 hours rather than 15 and extended to 48 hours rather than the previous limit of 39.

The roll-out was made after a pilot of seven forces had been running for just three months.

But under the Equality Act 2010, public bodies must by law have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Data “consistently shows” people from BAME backgrounds, and black people particularly, “are more likely to be the subject of s60 searches than white individuals”, according to the report.

The likelihood of this rose to a record high of 13.8 per cent in 2017/18 compared with 4.3 per cent the year before and 2.8 per cent in 2014/15, according to estimates.

The report said: “Racial disparities in the broader use of stop and search have been identified in the evidence base. 

“Several studies have suggested these are in part due to discriminatory decision-making within forces”, citing Home Office research which concluded “it is likely that, in at least some cases, discriminatory officer practice plays at least some role in disproportionality”

It added: “Any increases in the use of s60 pose the risk of magnifying any residual levels of discrimination in the use of this power,” but said there was no evidence to indicate if “disparity rates” would rise or fall under the changes.

The report also said: “UK evidence on the effectiveness of stop and search at reducing crime suggests changes in the level of stop and search have, at best, only minimal effects on violent crime.”

Surges in searches had “no significant effect on trends in knife crime or robbery”, according to the report, warning if changes led to an increase in searches, “it can be assumed more people would be searched but not arrested”.


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But it said it was “not possible to rule out that a modest increase in the use of s60 stop and searches might have a small positive impact on serious violence offences, if the power is used in a highly targeted way”.

The “recent significant rises in knife crime and serious violence present a case for change” and forces had “indicated the relaxation would enable greater confidence in the use of stop and search”, the report added.

Police chiefs would be expected to pay “continued attention” to “community relations, public trust and racial disparities”, the use of the power would need to be “targeted, justifiable and proportionate” and regularly scrutinised, it said.

The Home Office did not respond when asked whether Priti Patel, the home secretary, would be reviewing the measure in light of the findings.

But a spokeswoman said the department would “continue to support the police in fair and intelligence-led use of stop and search and we have always been clear that no-one should be stop and searched because of their race”.

Press Association



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Apps Gadgets Games Hackers Technology

Atlanta Asks Google Whether It Targeted Black Homeless People


Atlanta officials are seeking answers from Google after a news report said that company contractors had sought out black homeless people in the city to scan their faces to improve Google’s facial-recognition technology.

The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that a staffing agency hired by Google had sent its contractors to numerous American cities to target black people for facial scans. One unnamed former worker told the newspaper that in Atlanta, the effort included finding those who were homeless because they were less likely to speak to the media.

On Friday, Nina Hickson, Atlanta’s city attorney, sent a letter to Google asking for an explanation.

“The possibility that members of our most vulnerable populations are being exploited to advance your company’s commercial interest is profoundly alarming for numerous reasons,” she said in a letter to Kent Walker, Google’s legal and policy chief. “If some or all of the reporting was accurate, we would welcome your response as what corrective action has been and will be taken.”

Google said it had hired contractors to scan the faces of volunteers to improve software that would enable users to unlock Google’s new phone simply by looking at it. The company immediately suspended the research and began investigating after learning of the details in The Daily News article, a Google spokesman said.

“We’re taking these claims seriously,” he said in a statement.

The dust-up is the latest scrutiny of tech companies’ development of facial-recognition technology. Critics say that such technology can be abused by governments or bad actors and that it has already shown signs of bias. Some facial-recognition software has struggled with dark-skinned people.

But even companies’ efforts to improve the software and prevent such bias are proving controversial, as it requires the large-scale collection of scans and images of real people’s faces.

Google said it hired contractors from a staffing agency named Randstad for the research. Google wanted the contractors to collect a diverse sample of faces to ensure that its software would work for people of all skin tones, two Google executives said in an email to colleagues on Thursday. A company spokesman provided the email to The New York Times.

“Our goal in this case has been to ensure we have a fair and secure feature that works across different skin tones and face shapes,” the Google executives said in the email.

The unnamed person who told The Daily News that Randstad sent the contractors to Atlanta to focus on black homeless people also told the newspaper that a Google manager was not present when that order was made. A second unnamed contractor told The Daily News that employees were instructed to locate homeless people and university students in California because they would probably be attracted to the $5 gift cards volunteers received in exchange for their facial scans.

Randstad manages a work force of more than 100,000 contractors in the United States and Canada each week. The company, which is based in the Netherlands and has operations in 38 countries, did not respond to requests for comment. Google relies heavily on contract and temporary workers; they now outnumber its full-time employees.

Several unnamed people who worked on the facial recognition project told The Daily News that Randstad managers urged the contractors to mislead participants in the study, including by rushing them through consent forms and telling them that the phone scanning their faces was not recording.

The Google executives did not confirm those details in their email. They said that the tactics described in the article were “very disturbing.” Google instructed its contractors to be “truthful and transparent” with volunteers in the study by obtaining their consent and ensuring they knew why Google was collecting the data, the executives said in the email.

“Transparency is obviously important, and it is absolutely not okay to be misleading with participants,” they said.

A Google spokesman said that the volunteers’ facial scans were encrypted and only used for the research, and deleted once the research is completed.

In 2017, an Apple executive told Congress that the company developed its facial-recognition software using more than a billion images, including facial scans collected in its own research studies.

“We worked with participants from around the world to include a representative group of people accounting for gender, age, ethnicity and other factors,” the executive said.



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Apps Gadgets Games Hackers Technology

Iranian Hackers Targeted Presidential Campaign, Microsoft Says


SAN FRANCISCO — Iranian hackers targeted hundreds of email accounts associated with at least one presidential campaign, as well as those of American journalists and current and former United States government officials, Microsoft said Friday, in a sign of how cyberattacks will become a fixture of the 2020 presidential election.

Microsoft said in a report that hackers, with apparent backing from Iran’s government, had made more than 2,700 attempts to identify the email accounts of current and former government officials, journalists covering political campaigns and accounts associated with one major presidential campaign. In at least four cases, the hackers successfully infiltrated inboxes.

Microsoft would not name the campaign.

The report was released as the Trump administration continues to weigh a cyberstrike against Iran to punish Tehran for what White House officials charge was an Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities last month.

The Microsoft researchers said the hackers had tried to attack 241 accounts and were successful in four cases, using fairly unsophisticated means. In those cases, the hackers appear to have used information available about their victims online to discover their passwords. It was unclear what information they stole.

For weeks, officials from the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have said they are particularly concerned about Iranian-backed attacks. Their worries stemmed from rising tensions over new sanctions on Iran and nascent Iranian activity in the 2018 midterm elections.

While the officials said they believed that all the American presidential candidates were likely targets, President Trump’s campaign has long been considered a prime target.

It was Mr. Trump who abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year, and who has ramped up sanctions to the point that Iran’s oil revenues have dropped sharply. The United States has also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group. The guard corps oversees the nuclear program and, by some accounts, Iran’s best hacking group, its Cyber Corps.

But it is not clear whether the group Microsoft identified reports to the cyber corps or is made up, deliberately, of freelancers and others whose affiliations are harder to trace.

When Iranian officials are asked about cyberattacks, they admit nothing but note that attacks have been two-way. Three times in the past decade, the United States has directed cyberweapons against Iranian targets. The most famous attack, code-named Olympic Games, wiped out about 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear enrichment site.

Since then, there was a long-running cybercampaign to disable Iranian missiles and, early this summer, an attack on a database that the Iranian military runs to track ships in the Persian Gulf, disabling Iranian abilities to follow and seize them.

In recent weeks, United States Cyber Command was asked to develop options for retaliating against the missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. Officials reported that a cyberstrike against Iran, which the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed for the attacks, was emerging as the most attractive option, in an effort to avoid the kind of escalation that might result from a more conventional strike.

So far, there is no evidence of such action, but it might take a while to gain access to Iranian computer networks, and the results might be subtle. Microsoft said little about the timing of the targeting of the campaigns and journalists, but there have been similar waves of such attacks over the past several years.

Security executives at the Democratic National Committee warned staff members in an email this week that Iranian hackers might be targeting their email accounts with so-called spearphishing attacks, in which hackers try to lure their target into clicking on a malicious link or attachment. That link or attachment can give attackers a foothold into a computer network.

The hackers were also believed to be interfering with an additional security feature known as two-factor authentication — a common security method that asks for credentials beyond a password — and were creating fake LinkedIn personas to make their email lures more believable.

After Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Democrats have repeatedly warned their Republican counterparts that election interference cuts both ways, and that state-sponsored hackers may not always seek to help the Republican candidate. To date, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has refused to bring any election security bills to the floor.

Other cybersecurity firms said they were also witnessing what appeared to be the beginning stages of several different nation-state cyberattacks on American political campaigns.

Area 1, a Silicon Valley security company that is helping presidential and Senate candidates block phishing attacks, is witnessing cyberattacks against candidates across the political spectrum, said Oren Falkowitz, its chief executive.

“We’ve already seen attacks on several campaigns and believe the volume and intensity of these attacks will only increase as the election cycle advances toward Election Day,” Mr. Falkowitz said in an interview.

In July, Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, told an audience at the Aspen Security Conference that Microsoft had evidence that Russia, Iran and North Korea had been the most active nations conducting cyberattacks.

Mr. Burt said Russian, Iranian and North Korean hackers had been targeting nongovernmental organizations and think tanks that work closely with political campaigns in the United States. He added that in the race to infiltrate the inboxes of American political operatives and campaigns, Chinese hackers had been notably quiet.



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Sport

Raheem Sterling: England manager Gareth Southgate fears further racist abuse in Sofia next month after Sterling targeted during Bulgaria match



Raheem Sterling was the target of alleged racist abuse from a Bulgaria fan during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley – and Gareth Southgate fears his players could be subjected to more in next month’s return fixture in Sofia.

The PA news agency understands that the 24-year-old, a key figure in the fight against racism, was the focus of discriminatory language during the first half of Saturday’s match at the national stadium.

A steward heard the individual in the Bulgaria section of the ground and they were ejected from Wembley and handed to the police.


The Metropolitan Police has confirmed to PA that the male was arrested and taken to a north London police station on suspicion of an aggravated public order offence. Following enquiries, he was released with no further action.

A spokesperson from the Football Association said: “We can confirm that an individual, who was seated in the away section of the stadium, was ejected and subsequently arrested for discriminatory abuse during the England v Bulgaria match.

“Wembley Stadium operates a zero tolerance policy on anti-social and discriminatory behaviour and anyone found guilty will be ejected and reported to the police.”

PA understands that nothing was said to Sterling about the incident during the game, with the FA’s security team speaking to the forward after the 4-0 win to make him aware of the process.

UEFA was informed of the incident through its matchday delegate.

It is a sad but all too familiar story, with Sterling and his England team-mates subjected to racist abuse during March’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.

The Football Association of Montenegro were ordered to play their next match behind closed doors and manager Southgate fears similar abuse in Bulgaria.

“Yes, it is a concern,” the England boss said looking ahead to the October encounter. “It’s something that we’ve already planned.

“We’ve already planned what our schedule looks like and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.

“So, we are going to address that when we all get back together. We didn’t think it was right to do it this month because it’s too far away from the games, but we have to hope… we’re not confident that we’ll go there and nothing will happen.”

Next month’s qualifier will be England’s first trip to Bulgaria since September 2011, when a 3-0 win was overshadowed by racist abuse in Sofia.

Ashley Young was subjected to monkey chants during that game, but the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) only received a 40,000 euros (£34,000) fine by UEFA for “discriminatory” chanting and for the lighting and throwing of fireworks.

Raheem Sterling was allegedly targeted with racist abuse (Getty)

The Vasil Levski National Stadium will already be partially closed for England’s latest visit due to the racist behaviour of their supporters in the 2-1 loss in the Czech Republic in June.

The BFS is required to block off at least 5,000 seats for the visit of Southgate’s men and display a banner with the wording ‘£EqualGame’.

Bulgaria’s return fixture against the Czechs is also due to be played at a partially-closed ground due to racist behaviour in the 3-2 home loss to Kosovo in their other June fixture.

And just last month, Bulgarian sides Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1926 were both ordered to play their next UEFA matches in partially-closed stadiums due to racist behaviour in their respective Europa League qualifiers.

It is a depressing state of affairs, as are the concerns surrounding England fan behaviour on the trip to the Czech Republic in the days leading up to the trip to Bulgaria.

UEFA’s scheduling of the Group A qualifier in the party city of Prague on a Friday night has set off alarm bells, with the FA’s head of security Tony Conniford raising concerns over the timing of the match following issues at the Nations League.

Fan disturbances involving some England supporters in Portugal over the summer compounded flare-ups in Amsterdam and Seville last year, with Southgate saying “it’s sad we have to appeal” to those going to behave.

“It should be a given – sadly it isn’t,” he said. “Sadly, we are going to a place where people go, travel anyway for nights out from our country. What we don’t need to see is behaviour that I am afraid happens on our own high streets, so it is not something that is just England supporters.

“I’m afraid that it is a societal issue of people with alcohol unable to control themselves. But we certainly don’t want to be taking that abroad and that being a representation of our country.”

PA



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Raheem Sterling: England forward targeted with racist abuse during Bulgaria match



Raheem Sterling was the target of racist abuse from a Bulgaria fan during England‘s Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley.

The 24-year-old, a key figure in the fight against racism, is understood to have been subjected to discriminatory language during the first half of Saturday’s match at the national stadium.

A steward heard the individual in the Bulgaria section of the ground and they were ejected from Wembley and handed to the police.


The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that the male was arrested and taken to a north London police station on suspicion of an aggravated public order offence. Following enquiries, he was released with no further action.

An FA spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an individual, who was seated in the away section of the stadium, was ejected and subsequently arrested for discriminatory abuse during the England v Bulgaria match.

“Wembley Stadium operates a zero tolerance policy on anti-social and discriminatory behaviour and anyone found guilty will be ejected and reported to the police,” the statement added.

It is understood that nothing was said to Sterling during the game, with the FA’s security team speaking to the forward after the 4-0 win to make him aware of the process. Uefa was informed of the incident through its matchday delegate.



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