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West Brom fan found guilty of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers on social media

Simon Silwood, 50, from Kingswinford, was found guilty of racially abusing midfielder Romaine Sawyers on social media; he had denied the charge, claiming his phone autocorrected the word 'buffoon' to 'baboon'; Mr Silwood will be sentenced on September 30

PA - West Bromwich Albion's Romaine Sawyers
Image: Sawyers is currently on loan at Stoke

A West Bromwich Albion fan has been found guilty of racially abusing Romaine Sawyers on social media.

Simon Silwood, 50, from Kingswinford, had denied a charge of sending a message on social media that was "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene and menacing character".

He will be sentenced at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on September 30.

West Brom have issued Silwood with a lifetime ban.

Silwood's defence claimed that when he posted the word "baboon", he actually meant to use the word "buffoon", but it was autocorrected on his phone while sending.

The message was posted on January 26 after West Brom had lost 5-0 to Manchester City.

Silwood told police his message on the group was "stupid not racial".

On Thursday, District Judge Bryony Clarke said Silwood was "not a credible witness" - adding that the defendant meant the post to be "grossly offensive".

The court heard that Sawyers, who is currently on loan at Stoke City and was reporting a separate alleged racist social media post when he was shown Silwood's message, was left feeling "harassed, alarmed and distressed" after reading it.

Silwood was charged following an investigation carried out by Pc Stuart Ward, who is the UK's first dedicated hate crime officer within a football unit.

West Brom said in a statement: "The club welcomes the guilty verdict and has issued a lifetime ban to the person in question.

"WBA has a proud history of fighting all forms of discrimination and our message to supporters is clear: racism is wholly unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the club.

"We will will continue to work with W Mids police to ensure all instances of racism, either at the Hawthorns or online, are reported. Anyone who is found guilty of such an offence will be banned from the club for life."

Mark Johnson, of the Crown Prosecution Service. said: "In the 21st Century, it should be incomprehensible how a so-called football fan can abuse a player based on race, let alone a player on the team he purports to support.

"Silwood deliberately chose a word known to have clear racist connotations to abuse a footballer due to the colour of his skin. Such behaviour will not be tolerated in football and will be prosecuted by the CPS. As this is a hate crime, we will apply for a harsher sentence to reflect that.

"I would like to thank the witness for bringing Silwood's post to the attention of West Bromwich Albion which then reported it to the West Midlands police.

"CPS West Midlands is working closely with the West Midlands Police Force Football Unit and their dedicated Hate Crime Football Officer to ensure that individuals who commit these types of offences are brought to justice."

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