Thousands of football fans secretly investigated by Premier League
Thousands of football fans may have been secretly investigated by the Premier League's 'Stasi spy agency' for their political views, it has been revealed.
Newcastle supporter Linzi Smith, 34, was the subject of a four-month investigation by a special unit set up to expose hate speech in the game after a series of posts about trans issues on X.
Newcastle began investigating Ms Smith after receiving a complaint. They then wrote to her in November saying she was banned until 2026 for breaching the club's equality policy, which forbids 'discriminatory' comments.
A friend put her in touch with a campaigner, who urged her to submit a subject access request to Newcastle United. This revealed she was the subject of a 11-page 'Stasi' dossier entitled Online Investigation and Target Profile – Linzi Smith.
The document had been compiled by the Premier League's investigation unit, which was set up in 2019 to monitor abuse directed at players. It does not have a name but works towards the league's stated aim to 'challenge and prevent discrimination, harassment and abuse'.
Ms Smith, who is gay, is now taking legal action to overturn the ban, stating that it is her right by law to express gender-critical views and that the Premier League's actions were a breach of data protection laws.
Investigators trawled her social media posts to find her date of birth, where she lives and works and the fact that she '[appears] to walk their dog by [XXXX] Church which is just off [the street where she lives].'
The investigations unit was previously presided over by shamed Whitehall mandarin Helen MacNamara.
Ms MacNamara, who was fined by the police in the partygate scandal, was until recently the Premier League executive responsible for the policies now at the centre of Ms Smith's legal battle.
As director of policy and corporate responsibility for the Premier League from 2021 until last year, Ms MacNamara was second in command to the chief executive.
Mr Young called her case 'the most egregious example of corporate interference with free speech I've ever come across' and said it was 'like something out of 1984'.
The original complainant included screenshots taken from Ms Smith's social media account in which she suggested that transgender people were suffering from mental illness.
In October, Newcastle United emailed Ms Smith to inform her that she was being investigated by Northumbria Police for a possible hate crime offence and that her membership had been suspended.
It is understood that Ms Smith had not done anything to offend anyone during a match, inside the stadium or involving the club.
Days after, Ms Smith was visited by two police officers at her home and she agreed to be interviewed under caution about her tweets for 25 minutes.
Two hours later, she received a call from police to inform her that no further action would be taken as she had not committed any offence.
Ms Smith appealed her ban but was told on January 26 that it had been upheld because her tweets 'constitute harassment' and go against the club's Equality Policy.