A police unit has been set up to investigate a surge in reports of racist abuse against England football players on social media following the Euro 2020 final.
A torrent of racist comments aimed at several black team members flooded platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter following England’s defeat to Italy at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has revealed a hate crime investigation is being run by a dedicated team from the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU).
The team, which is working through the large number of reports from across the country, has already submitted dozens of data applications to social media companies, the NPCC said.
Meanwhile, four people have been arrested by local police forces since the match on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Greater Manchester Police confirmed a 37-year-old man from Ashton-upon-Mersey had been arrested on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.
It came a day after West Mercia Police detained a man while investigating a racist tweet aimed at Marcus Rashford.
The 50-year-old, from Powick, near Worcester, was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred following reports of an inappropriate tweet posted on Sunday.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, NPCC football policing lead, said: "The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game is utterly vile and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country.
"Our England team have been true role models during the tournament, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity. I’m disgusted there are individuals out there who think it’s acceptable to direct such abhorrent abuse at them, or at anybody else.
"The UKFPU investigation is well under way and work continues to identify those responsible.
"We are working very closely with social media platforms, who are providing data we need to progress enquiries. If we identify that you are behind this crime, we will track you down and you will face the serious consequences of your shameful actions."
Reports come in to the UKFPU through various channels including from local forces, charities, football clubs and other partner organisations, the NPCC said.
The team will then assess the content and makes initial enquiries to trace the perpetrators.
The suspect’s details are then passed on to the relevant local force to investigate further.
The hate crime investigation follows a night of widespread crime and disorder after Sunday’s match.
By Tuesday, the NPCC said 897 football-related incidents and 264 arrests had been recorded across the country in the 24-hour period surrounding the final.
This brings the total number of football-related incidents during the tournament to 2,344, with 630 arrests.
The NPCC said these numbers are a significant increase compared to the criminal incidents seen during previous tournaments including the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2016.