Posted on October 1, 2021

West Bromwich Albion Fan Jailed for Eight Weeks for Racially Abusing Footballer Romaine Sawyers on Facebook

Tom Gillespie, Sky News, September 30, 2021

A West Bromwich Albion fan has been jailed for eight weeks after racially abusing one of the team’s players on Facebook.

Simon Silwood wrote that midfielder Romaine Sawyers should win the “Baboon d’Or” – a sarcastic reference to the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy.

Silwood posted the racist remark after West Brom lost 5-0 to Manchester City on 26 January.

The 50-year-old denied the offence, telling police his message on the group was “stupid not racial”.

He claimed autocorrect had changed the word “buffoon” to “baboon”.

Sawyers, who is currently on loan at Stoke City, told a court he felt “harassed, alarmed and distressed” after reading the message.

Silwood, who has been banned for life by West Brom, was convicted at Walsall Magistrates’ Court last month.

District Judge Briony Clarke ruled he was “not a credible witness” and had meant the post to be offensive.

Passing sentence at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, the judge said: “This is, Mr Silwood, a serious offence.

“There is no place for racism or racist abuse online. This clearly in my view crosses the custody threshold.

“I assess the remorse you have for your actions as very minimal indeed.

“In my view it (the offence) falls into the category of greatest harm. We have to accept it had a wider impact and a substantial impact on Mr Sawyers.

“In my view, taking into account what I have heard, there is no reason to suspend the sentence.”

As Silwood was being taken down the cells, a woman in the public gallery described the sentence as “disgusting” and shouted: “He’s an innocent man.”

Silwood, who was also ordered to pay a £128 victim surcharge and total of £1,000 in costs and compensation, 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.

Opening the case at the earlier hearing, prosecutor Simon Brownsey said the message posted by Silwood “was intentionally posted and was blatant racism towards black professional footballer Mr Romaine Sawyers”.

“Three posts were placed on that thread,” the prosecutor said. “The first one said ‘b******’. The second was ‘white lives matter when you try and watch’.

“The third post, from Mr Silwood, said ‘Baboon dor’.”

Prior to sentence, Mr Brownsey submitted the offence was a “grossly offensive racial hate crime” which had impacted on all black professional footballers and wider society, putting it into a higher category of harm caused.

In a statement provided to the court, Sawyers said: “Having seen the word baboon I assumed it was referring to the colour of my skin.

“The word has left me feeling harassed, alarmed and distressed, and I find the message to be racist based on the colour of my skin.

“The whole incident has left me extremely upset.

“I find it difficult to believe that in 2021 there are still people out in society who believe it is acceptable to behave like this.”