Feb 14, 2024

The Premier League has been spying on football fans and banning them from matches if they have written social media posts that argue men can’t become women.

The shocking revelation has come to light because Newcastle United supporter Linzi Smith was handed a ban until 2026 for breaching the club’s equality policy, which forbids “discriminatory” comments. Among the complaints was that she had suggested that transgenderism – e.g. believing you are female when you are in fact male – may be a mental illness.

Smith was not accused of doing anything wrong during matches or inside the stadium, only on social media forums unrelated to the club.

In October, Smith was emailed by Newcastle United with news that her membership had been suspended pending a police investigation for a possible hate crime because of her posts. The police then visited her at home to interview her under caution. Fortunately, they soon said no further action would be taken as she had not committed any offence.

Despite this, last month Newcastle informed Smith that her appeal against the ban had failed because her tweets “constitute harassment and go against the club’s Equality Policy”.

Putting in a subject access request, Smith learned she had been the subject of a four-month investigation by a special unit of the football league that had been set up in 2019 to monitor abuse directed at players. She found the unit had compiled an ‘11-page Stasi-style dossier entitled Online Investigation and Target Profile – Linzi Smith’.

Smith said the dossier showed they tried to find where she lives and included images of her when she used to walk her dog behind the house. Disturbingly, the report also had a section listing her “vulnerabilities”, which included the abuse she had suffered online.

This story has shocked many in terms of the extreme surveillance and censorship that it shows being normalised among football clubs. If this is how they treat a person with gender-critical views, how will they treat those of us who stand up for real marriage? Marriage supporters are wearily familiar with being smeared as being ‘discriminatory’ and ‘hateful’ for not toeing the LGBT line. We shudder to think what dossiers they might have on people like us.

This suppression of free speech and common sense has to stop. At C4M we call on the Premier League to end all investigations into fans’ views on topics of gender and marriage and to refocus its investigative efforts on actual abuse experienced by players.