Unruly ‘Fan’ Makes a Mockery of Hillsborough Tragedy, Receives Football Ban
We take you to Willesden Magistrates’ Court in London where a man found himself laughing, oblivious to the severity of the scene. James White, a 33-year-old from Warwickshire, showcased a complete lack of remorse when a four-year football ban was meted out for his grossly offensive behaviour towards the Hillsborough disaster. As reported by The Evening Standard’s Ellie Ng reported from the court.
The Mockery Worn on His Back
The courtroom atmosphere turned sombre when it was disclosed that White had sported a Manchester United shirt with the number 97 emblazoned on it, along with the words “Not Enough”, during the FA Cup final on June 3. His team, Manchester United, suffered a defeat against Manchester City in the showdown held at Wembley Stadium.
This ‘message’ shirt was a chilling reference to the Hillsborough disaster, a tragedy that shook football in 1989, where 97 innocent fans lost their lives in a crush during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
District judge Mark Jabbitt stated, “It is hard to imagine a more … offensive reference to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.” He did not mince his words, labelling White’s shirt a “hateful expression” and an “abhorrent message”, adding that the effects of such a reprehensible act are “profound and distressing”.
The Penalty and Reaction
White’s punishment wasn’t limited to the ban; he was also slapped with a fine of £1,000, a surcharge of £400, and an additional £85 in costs. Yet, his response was nothing short of shocking. He smiled, even chuckled, displaying a total lack of comprehension for the severity of his actions.
Upon his arrest at Wembley Stadium, White claimed a personal justification for his shirt’s design, stating, “My grandad died aged 97 and didn’t have enough kids”. The court learned, however, that White’s criminal history wasn’t limited to this incident, with a string of convictions since 2021.
Impact on the Hillsborough Survivors
The harrowing episode unfolded publicly, causing widespread distress. Police were inundated with emails from people who had caught sight of the offensive shirt online. Many were “absolutely devastated” and “disgusted” by the shameful act.
For those who lived through the Hillsborough disaster, the incident was deeply personal. Diane Lynn, vice chair of Hillsborough Survivor Supporters Alliance, spoke out about the residual “guilt” that survivors battle with and shared, “How dare he make us feel like this”.
White’s defence argued he “deeply regrets” his actions and acknowledges the pain he has caused, yet his apparent amusement in court paints a different picture.
A Warning to All: Respect the Tragedy
As Kevin Christie, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) London North, stressed: “White was wearing an offensive shirt which mocked many people and communities that were affected by the Hillsborough tragedy.” Christie reiterated that the CPS will continue its cooperation with the police to address incidents of tragedy chanting, and ensure that perpetrators face justice and match bans.
The CPS is sending out a clear message to any so-called fans engaging in such behaviour: Respect the pain of those affected by these tragic events or risk exclusion from the sport they purport to love. The aftermath of Hillsborough still haunts survivors and their families. The unlawful killing of 97 football fans cannot be dismissed as a punchline for a senseless joke.
A similar message was sent to Kieron Darlow, a Tottenham fan who received a three-year ban for making inappropriate gestures mocking the Hillsborough disaster at a Liverpool v Spurs Premier League game. This string of cases is a stark reminder of the importance of honouring the memory of those lost, and the need for education and empathy in football, and beyond.