UK man convicted of online antisemitism, banned from soccer events

35-year-old Kerry Hardwell pled guilty after sending numerous antisemitic messages to Jewish sports reporter Dan Levene.

Football / soccer ball (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Football / soccer ball
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

35-year-old Kerry Hardwell from Bognor in the United Kingdom was convicted in court on July 25 for posting online antisemitic content directed toward Jewish sports reporter Dan Levene, according to a statement by Sussex Police on Wednesday. 

Hardwell pled guilty to sending an offensive, indecent, menacing, obscene message or matter via a public communication network, contrary to the UK’s Communications Act. 

Hardwell frequently posted hate speech using antisemitic tropes in an attempt to attack public figures on social media, according to the police. 

The impact of Hardwell’s crime

Levene initially reported the harassment in August 2022 after Hardwell made a social media post that was deemed especially extreme. The harassment led to Levene leaving his position as a reporter for Chelsea FC, the victim said in court. 

In a statement to the court, Levene said “The 'Y-word' is three letters that are often thrown away by people who may claim they don't fully appreciate their collective meaning; with some [soccer] fans among that number.

 General view inside Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - August 18, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH)
General view inside Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - August 18, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/EDDIE KEOGH)

“But everyone, most notably the defendant here, should be aware that it is a racially offensive word – and its use in a pejorative sense, as in this case, is a hate crime.

“This word, and variants of it, have been used throughout history by extremists to demonize and persecute a minority. My minority. This history is relevant because it explains the pernicious nature of the word's usage today.”

In a tweet, Levene wrote that “A fan has been banned for life by @ChelseaFCafter admitting antisemitic hate crime offences spanning a decade. Kerry Hardwell, 35, of Bognor was sentenced at Worthing Magistrates to complete 200hrs unpaid work, and given a 3-year [soccer] Banning Order.”

“An investigation revealed 50+ occasions where Hardwell tweeted antisemitic hate speech, including referring to Jews as 'vermin' & 'parasite'. In one tweet he addressed Lord Sugar as 'Y*d c**t. No f***skin'. He bragged how he planned to sing antisemitic songs at Chelsea.” 

“I'd like to thank @ChelseaFC & @sussex_police for the seriousness with which they treated this case. Hardwell is one of the most prolific publishers of antisemitic abuse I encountered during my years reporting on Chelsea. This is recognized in his lifetime ban from the club.”

What was Kerry Hardwell’s sentence?

Hardwell was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid community service and a three-year football [soccer] banning order that will restrict him from attending professional [soccer] matches in the UK.

While the order restricts Hardwell for only 3 years, Chelsea FC elected to install a lifetime ban for the avid soccer fan.

PC Darren Balkham, Sussex Police’ Dedicated Football [soccer] Officer, said “The vitriol in the messages was sent in the belief that because the person was behind a keyboard, they wouldn’t be identified.

“The defendant was wrong, and Harding will now have learned this lesson.

“There is no place for antisemitic and racist abuse, either in [soccer] or in society.

“During this case, we have liaised closely with Metropolitan Police and with Chelsea FC to ensure the club has the full facts of the investigation for their own action to be taken.”

A spokesperson for Chelsea FC said in the release that "Chelsea FC condemns antisemitic abuse and hate speech in all its forms and we have no tolerance for it at our club.

"As soon as Sussex Police made us aware, Mr. Hardwell was suspended pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.

"Subsequent to Mr. Hardwell’s conviction, we can confirm that he has been issued with a lifetime ban from Chelsea FC.

"We commend Dan Levene for coming forward. Nobody should have to be subject to the type of disgusting abuse he has had to endure.”