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Crack down on fans who chant abuse, top prosecutor says
FOOTBALL authorities should crack down on clubs that fail to stop their fans chanting abuse from the stands, the top sports prosecutor in England and Wales said tonight.
Nick Hawkins, the lead sports prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said it was simply not acceptable for the vilest of chants to be laughed off as banter or part of the game because stars were paid lots of money to ''take it''.
In a speech in Hampshire he said the racist abuse of players and some of the most extreme chants that would be a crime off the pitch was a crime on or near it too.
Clubs who fail to act could be forced to play games behind closed doors or be docked points to make them pay financially, while fans could be banned for life, he said.
Just a day after a student was jailed for mocking footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed during a match, Mr Hawkins also called for the phenomena of fans abusing players on social media to be tackled.
Better education was needed to show both ''what not to do and of how easy it is to detect and prosecute these offences'', he said.
Giving a lecture at the University of Portsmouth, Mr Hawkins urged sports authorities ''to do more about inappropriate chanting and to educate that the excuse, 'it's football so it's different', is just wrong''.
''I would strongly urge clubs to seek to stop their fans singing some of their more choice chants,'' he said.
''Do Pompey fans really need to sing about 'hitting scummers with a brick'?''
He also called ''for the authorities to take action about clubs that fail to do so if these abusive chants become a habit''.
Mr Hawkins went on: ''For me it is relatively simple in principle and that is if something was a crime outside sport then it should be a crime inside sport.''
Abuse on social media also needs to be tackled, he said, after student Liam Stacey was jailed yesterday for mocking Muamba on Twitter.
The 21-year-old, of Pontypridd, south Wales, was given a 56-day prison sentence for making what a judge called ''vile and abhorrent'' remarks on Twitter.
The series of increasingly racist tweets were made as fans watched in horror as 23-year-old Muamba collapsed from a heart attack during an FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday March 17.
Mr Hawkins said more education was needed, but added: ''I should stress I would never condone the misuse of social media to commit what would be a hate crime if said face-to-face.''