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Rio Ferdinand: Wolves fan Jamie Arnold found guilty of racially abusing former Manchester United defender

Warning: Some readers may be offended by some of the content in this piece. We have removed repeated references to racist gestures and language, to try to minimise offence, while remaining true to the court proceedings

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Wolves fan Jamie Arnold has been found guilty of racially abusing former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court

Wolverhampton Wanderers fan Jamie Arnold has been found unanimously guilty of racially abusing former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Arnold, 32, from Norton Bridge in Staffordshire, had been charged with causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.

Ferdinand was working as a pundit for BT Sport covering Manchester United's game with Wolves at Molineux on 21 May 2021, the first game with fans back in the stadium after coronavirus restrictions had been lifted.

Ferdinand celebrated when United scored and Arnold responded by directing an overtly racist gesture at the pundit, followed by the use of a racist word that he shouted at the former United and England defender.

Ferdinand did not hear or see the abuse himself, but told the court he was left feeling "sick" and "distressed" when he was told what had happened.

Five separate witnesses gave evidence to say they had seen Mr Arnold making the gesture, while CCTV footage also showed him making the gesture again some minutes later in what the prosecution said was him telling his father what he had just done.

Body cam footage from the arresting police officer heard Arnold admit to what he had done, saying "I knew as soon as I had done it, I'd been a stupid ****."

Sentencing has been adjourned until next month, pending some pre-sentence reports from the probation service and Arnold has been bailed to appear again for sentencing on December 8.

Arnold faces a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

In a statement, Ferdinand said: "Racism will only be eradicated when we all work together as a society!

"The prosecution wouldn't have been possible without all the help and support from the witnesses, Wolves fans and staff that came forward to testify in court.

"Special thank you to Police Constable Stuart Ward (Football Hate Crime Officer), my family and my team at New Era!"

Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands, Alistair Redford, said: "Arnold made despicable racist gestures towards a victim who was just trying to do his job.

"I would like to thank the stewards whose quick-thinking actions ensured they could identify and remove Arnold from the stadium that day, and for Mr Ferdinand and witnesses who came forward to help us build as strong a case as possible."

Douglas Mackay, CPS sports lead, added: "It is hugely disappointing to see a so-called football fan's behaviour devolve into a derogatory hate crime and spoil what should have been a triumphant return of football following the pandemic.

"There's no place for hate in the beautiful game and the perpetrators of such crimes can expect to be prosecuted."

Meanwhile, a Kick It Out spokesperson said: "Kick It Out welcomes the guilty verdict handed to Arnold today. It is imperative that perpetrators of discriminatory abuse are held to account for their actions and we hope this result sends a strong statement that racism has no place in our, or in society.

"We commend the CPS and West Midlands Police for their work securing justice in this case and would urge authorities across the country to take similar incidents of discriminatory abuse just as seriously.

"We continue to work with partners across football to tackle discriminatory abuse as it happens and to ensure that victims receive the support they need. We would encourage anyone who witnesses discrimination of any sort in future to report it directly to us at Kick It Out."

And PC Stuart Ward of the West Midlands Police - who was appointed the UK's first dedicated hate crime officer within a football unit - said: "Abusing anyone for the colour of their skin is disgusting and can never, ever be condoned.

"Arnold is old enough to know such appalling behaviour is inexcusable and certainly won't be tolerated.

"I know from personal experience how being a victim of racism hurts while offenders risk their own aspirations through getting a criminal record.

"I would like to thank Rio for his assistance in this investigation. Through his support we've ensured a man has this conviction to his name."

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