Chelsea Football Club has announced that it has banned an abusive online troll from its matches for ten years after he hounded a Jewish journalist who came forward and received support from Campaign Against Antisemitism. The announcement comes as football clubs around the country are walking out of social media in protest at online hate.
Sam Mole, a twenty-year-old from Kettering, had sent antisemitic and homophobic messages online to freelance Jewish journalist Dan Levene, including one wishing that Mr Levene would die and another lamenting that Mr Levene had not been killed in the Holocaust.
Further abusive messages had also been sent by Mr Mole from another account that Twitter suspended. Mr Mole, a fan of Chelsea Football Club, took issue with Mr Levene’s stance in opposition to antisemitic chanting by some fans of the club.
Earlier this year, a legal case against Mr Mole ended with a judge declaring his regret that “the law prohibits me from punishing you” following a blunder by the investigating police force. Mr Mole had admitted to police that he had sent the abusive tweets in October 2019, but he was found not guilty at Leicester Magistrates Court in February 2021 on the technicality that he was on holiday in Australia at the time, and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the UK’s courts.
Mr Mole was nonetheless issued a three-year restraining order prohibiting him from directly or indirectly contacting Mr Levene and posting messages about him on social media or encouraging others to do so. He was told that if he broke this order, he could go to prison.
The court heard that Mr Mole, a trainee teacher, expressed remorse for his actions. Campaign Against Antisemitism is in contact with the Teaching Regulation Agency.
Campaign Against Antisemitism contacted Chelsea to urge the football club to exclude Mr Mole from attending matches and the club confirmed that it would investigate. Chelsea has now confirmed that it has banned Mr Mole for a period of ten years.
In a statement, Chelsea said: “Following the conclusion of court proceedings in February, the club conducted our own investigation into the matter and has taken the decision to ban the individual from Chelsea FC for a period of ten years. Everybody at Chelsea is proud to be part of a diverse club. Our players, staff, fans and visitors to the club come from a wide range of backgrounds, including the Jewish community, and we want to ensure everyone feels safe, valued and included. We will not tolerate any behaviour from supporters that threatens that aim.”
The statement added: “As a club, we will continue to take action against individuals or groups who produce or disseminate social media posts that contravene these values.”
Chelsea was among nineteen Premiership clubs, along with the Premier League itself, to have adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism.
Dan Levene said: “I’m delighted with this outcome. It sends a very strong message that abusive and antisemitic behaviour online is unacceptable. And it’s particularly poignant coming today, when football clubs are walking out from social media because of racism online. I hope this case leads to better processes at Chelsea and other clubs so that it doesn’t take so long to come to the right decision in future, but this is a good day for the fight against racism in football.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Chelsea should be applauded for banning an abusive troll for ten years. This announcement sends a powerful message that antisemitism in football and online must not be tolerated. Football clubs walking out of social media over online hate is one thing, but backing it up with strong action like this is the strongest antidote.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has long called for tougher regulations on social media sites and that social networks proactively search for and remove hate speech from their platforms.