Football fans who abuse players or fellow supporters online could be prosecuted under new guidelines for tackling hooliganism.
Sports prosecutor Nick Hawkins said criminal abuse inside as well as outside sports grounds would be dealt with in the run-up to England’s World Cup qualifiers in the autumn.
“Our legal guidance on communications sent by social media clearly sets out how we will approach the abuse of players or fellow supporters online and I’m glad to say we have the full support of the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association in this field.”
New guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this year said that communications that included threats of violence or damage to property; specifically targeted individuals, or that may breach a court order should be “prosecuted robustly”.
Others that were “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false” may not reach the criminal threshold.
The policy, issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) also deals specifically with homophobic chanting.
It said: “As well as tackling violence, disorder and criminal damage we will deal robustly with offences of racist and homophobic and discriminatory chanting and abuse and other types of hate crime.”
Alice Ashworth from charity Stonewall said: “We welcome the fact that the new policy on football-related offences addresses homophobic chanting for the first time.
“Stonewall research shows that anti-gay abuse continues to be all too common in football and deters gay fans, as well as many families, from attending matches.”
Football Banning Orders currently bar fans from travelling to matches for a minimum of three years.
Mr Hawkins said pitch invasions and the use of flares or fireworks could also result in prosecution.