Police arrested a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan accused of directing a monkey chant at Rio Ferdinand during their defeat against Manchester United on Sunday.
Wolves also vowed to ban the 31-year-old supporter for life and apologised to Ferdinand, who was working at the game as a pundit for BT Sport.
The fan was ejected before half-time, prompting former United captain Ferdinand to post on Twitter:
“To the Wolves fan who has just been thrown out for doing a monkey chant at me. You need to be dismissed from football & educated. Come meet me & I will help you understand what it feels like to be racially abused!”
Wolves replied with a post that read: “We are deeply sorry Rio. This person does not represent our club, our supporters or our values. We can confirm that this individual has been arrested by @WMPolice, who we will support to ensure that the strongest action is taken, including a lifetime ban from our club.”
West Midlands Police also confirmed the fan’s arrest for an alleged “a racist gesture” directed at Ferdinand, with its football hate crime officer Stuart Ward posting: “We will not tolerate football hate crime.”
Sunday’s Premier League match was the first with fans at Molineux since the return of crowds to football following the coronavirus crisis.
As has been the case for much of the televised match coverage during the pandemic, the BT Sport presenting and punditry team were stationed outdoors.
Ferdinand appeared to be targeted by supporters in the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, particularly after celebrating United’s first goal.
The match was also one of several on the final day of the Premier League season that witnessed isolated booing of players for taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter.
Addressing the Wolves fan’s ejection live on air, BT Sport anchor Jake Humphrey said: “It just shows that there is so much still to do when it comes to educating people about why players are taking the knee.”
Ferdinand replied: “Fortunately, I just had a tweet come through from West Midlands Police saying the fan has been arrested and is currently in custody, as they take racism very seriously, which is pleasing to see and refreshing.
“I’d love to meet up with the fella, just educate him a little bit. I think that’s part of the problem. Punishing people without education isn’t the way forward and it’s disappointing.
“People have waited all these months – over a year – to get back in the stadium and then you come in with ignorance like that. Uncalled for, not needed, not warranted at all. Disappointed, really.
“But, listen, that’s just a very small minority in this stand that was doing it. We were having banter with the fans and stuff. The fans being here, the emotion and atmosphere they created today was fantastic and that’s one person that tries to destroy it for everybody else.
“That’s somebody who just has no awareness at all about their surroundings, about what’s going on in the current climate of things and, again, someone obviously lacking any form of education to know what’s right and wrong.”
Humphrey added: “I’m sorry that you still have to experience that kind of thing in 2021 and thanks for sharing with us and explaining your feelings – and also to the stewards and the police who acted really quickly, actually, here at Molineux.
“As soon as they knew there was an issue, he [the supporter] was straight out and he was arrested outside the stadium for alleged racist abuse.
“But, once again, a really disappointing thing to see on the first day that fans are allowed back inside this football stadium in many, many months. Actually, quite unbelievable.”