An English soccer fan visiting Russia to watch his team in the 2018 FIFA World will be forbidden from attending soccer games for five years, thanks to some poorly-thought-out behavior at a Russian bar.
As The Guardian reports, Michael Herbert, 57, was brought before a criminal court last week after a video emerged of him giving a Nazi salute at a Russian bar. Now, if you’re an American reading this, you’re probably thinking two things. First, is giving a Nazi salute a criminal offense? And the answer is yes, yes it is – in England, whose free speech protections only go so far when it comes to hate speech. Second, can England haul you into court for what you do outside of England? And the answer is yes, yes they can – see the previous sentence about the U.K.’s laws on hate speech.
Herbert was in Volgograd – where, not coincidentally, the Russians battled it out with Nazi Germany in one of the bloodiest battles in World War II – drinking it up at a bar following England’s energizing win over Tunisia. He and two other men, both Englishmen who will also face criminal charges, were recorded on video giving the Nazi salute. That video made it to social media, which in turn made it to the attention of both England’s law enforcement apparatus as well as its soccer governing body, the Football Association.
Match day! We play Panama in our 2nd FIFA World Cup group match. A win today would mean we are through to the last 16. Come on England! ???????????????????????????????? #Eng #ThreeLions #WorldCup18 pic.twitter.com/B504o7mKAl— England Fans (@EnglandFansTwi) June 24, 2018
Once Herbert and the other men were back home in England, they quickly found themselves before a judge.
Herbert escaped jail time, but he’ll be unable to attend soccer games for five years. It’s not clear, as of this writing, how that ban will be enforced, however. And indeed, it may not even be possible: as CNN reported in 2017, banning a fan from a certain stadium is easy to do on paper, but in practice, it’s much harder. Long story short: unless the stadium uses facial-recognition software to weed out unwelcome fans, or if its security personnel know the miscreant’s face, there’s really not much that can be done to enforce a ban.
Soccer, as a sport, takes fan behavior seriously. Just ask Mexican fans: as previously reported by the Inquisitr, FIFA fined Mexico’s soccer governing body $10,000 because fans chanted an anti-gay slur during Mexico’s game against Germany. After the Mexican soccer association asked its fans to stop doing that, their game against South Korea, it appeared that they’d replaced to homophobic slur with a different chant.