It’s great to see the Free Speech Union’s (FSU’s) latest case gaining traction.
As reported in the Mail, FSU member and Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) supporter Linzi Smith, was the subject of a four-month investigation by a special investigation unit set up to expose ‘hate speech’ in the game after expressing her lawful ‘gender critical’ beliefs online.
In a series of posts to X, formerly Twitter, Linzi criticised the view that men who identify as women should be treated as if they were indistinguishable from biological women, including being able to access women’s changing rooms, compete against women in sports like football and rugby and be house in women’s jails.
NUFC 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.
That part of the story is, in itself, bad enough. But what the FSU has also uncovered while providing Linzi with support and assistance is an investigation unit embedded in the Premier League. The way it operates is secretive, and its remit is unclear, but one of its jobs appears to be prying into football fans social media, checking their accounts, and then determining if they’ve engaged in wrongthink.
In Linzi’s case, NUFC reached out to the Premier League to help investigate her.
The League tasked its intelligence unit with compiling a dossier on her, and investigators quickly got to work, trawling 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 fact that she has “ties” to nearby Whitley Bay was also noted.
Chillingly, the report refers to Linzi as the “target”.
It was after this report had been handed over to the club that NUFC took the decision to ban her from attending games for the rest of this season and for the next two.
Ms Smith, who is gay and champions lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, is now taking advice on her legal options as she looks to overturn the ban, and has stated that it is her right by law to express gender-critical views. With our support, Linzi has also now made a complaint to the ICO regarding, on the basis that the Premier League’s actions may have been a breach of data protection laws.
In a separate interview with the Telegraph, Linzi said: ‘It’s mind-blowing that they have gone to such lengths because I have expressed views to which I am entitled on my personal X account.
“They have behaved like the Stasi – it was being done so covertly that I didn’t even know what was happening,” she continued. “They kept telling me they want everyone to feel included – but it appears you’re only welcome if you follow their thought process on everything, and if you don’t you are banned. It is sinister and I feel violated, to be honest.”
Speaking to the Mail about Linzi’s case, FSU General Secretary Toby Young warned that many more fans may have been targeted with similar investigations.
“We think it’s possible that hundreds of fans, possibly thousands, have been monitored in a similar way by the Premier League’s intelligence unit,” he said. “That’s why the FSU is encouraging people to submit Subject Access Requests to the Premiership club they support and the Premier League to find out if there’s a file on them.”
If you’re a fan of a Premier League team, and you’ve ever expressed perfectly lawful but ‘unfashionable’ views on social media in the past, on this subject or any other, please click the link below to use our new, automatic form to submit a subject access request (SAR), both to your Premier League club and to the Premier League itself.
If you find out they have been keeping tabs on your political views, let us know and it will help us put a stop to this flagrant interference in free speech.