West Midlands police have launched a criminal investigation into the behaviour of fans at Edgbaston during the fourth day of England’s dramatic Test victory over India after allegations of racist abuse in the stands.
Claims emerged on social media on Monday evening that several supporters in the ground had been racially abused, some of which contained images of an individual alleged to have been involved. Officials at Edgbaston swiftly promised to investigate and, in the wake of the police announcement, have said that anyone successfully prosecuted would be banned from all cricket venues nationwide.
“We’re liaising with Edgbaston officials to understand what’s happened and would encourage anyone who heard any racist language or gestures, or has video footage that could help, to get in touch,” West Midlands police said in a statement. “We’re aware of images circulating on social media showing an alleged offender. We’re making enquiries to identify the person and would urge him to come forward and speak to us.”
Many of those who said they had reported abuse to stewards, claimed no action was taken against their abusers, while they were told to sit back down. Warwickshire, however, have defended the way their stewards handled the situation.
“I have spoken to those who raised the issue on social media, the stewards managing the Eric Hollies stand and the police,” said Stuart Cain, the chief executive at Edgbaston. “When this issue was reported to the stewards, they couldn’t pinpoint where the alleged abuse was coming from so stewards and the police monitored the area until close of play.”
Cain said the best course of action for anyone who experiences abuse in the ground is to report it using the Edgbaston smartphone app. “This allows people to anonymously report abuse directly to the control room so that the stewards and police can take immediate action,” he said. “There was a separate incident reported via the app yesterday, which was dealt with in less than 10 minutes and led to the ejection of three fans.”
Though there will now be a six-week break before England next play Test cricket the white-ball side starts a series against India on Thursday, and international cricket is scheduled to return to Edgbaston on Saturday for the second of those games. All ticketholders for that match will be contacted and reminded of the ground’s policy on abuse and about the app. “Everybody should feel safe and welcome at Edgbaston, and we will continue to work hard to deliver this expectation,” Cain said.