A man who wore an offensive football shirt to the FA Cup final referencing the Hillsborough disaster has been banned from all regulated football games in the UK for four years.
James White, 33, of Warwickshire, pleaded guilty at Willesden Magistrates’ Court on Monday to displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
He smiled and chuckled after the banning order was made, and was also fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a surcharge of £400 and £85 in costs.
White was seen wearing the Manchester United jersey – which had the number 97 underneath the words “not enough” – at Wembley Stadium on 3 June.
The image was widely shared on social media and received widespread condemnation.
The shirt made reference to the 97 football fans who died as a result of a crush at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on 15 April 1989. An inquest jury ruled in 2016 that they were unlawfully killed amid a number of police errors.
District judge Mark Jabbitt said: “It is hard to imagine a more … offensive reference to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.”
The judge added that the shirt White wore bore a “hateful expression” – calling it an “abhorrent message” – and that the impact of his actions are “profound and distressing”.
After White was arrested at Wembley Stadium, the court heard he was cautioned and told police: “You haven’t even asked me what the T-shirt means.
“My grandad died aged 97 and didn’t have enough kids.”
The prosecution said White had “many” previous convictions, dating most recently to 2021, but none were football-related.
Police received a series of emails from people who saw an image of the shirt online.
The court heard how members of the public wrote that they were “absolutely devastated” and “disgusted” by it.
Diane Lynn, vice-chair of Hillsborough Survivor Supporters Alliance, said it was “very personal” for people who were at Hillsborough that day and that survivors suffered with “guilt”.
“How dare he make us feel like this,” she said.
The defence told the court that White “deeply regrets” his actions and accepts he “hurt people very deeply”.
Responding to the viral picture, the FA said in a statement: “The FA strongly condemns the actions of the individual who wore a shirt referencing the Hillsborough disaster ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
“We saw a photograph of the offensive shirt on social media and immediately started working to identify the perpetrator.
“Our security team were able to quickly locate the individual based on the image, and we welcome the swift action which was then taken by the police.
“We will not tolerate abuse relating to Hillsborough or any football tragedy at Wembley Stadium and we will continue to work with the authorities to ensure strong action is taken against perpetrators.”
A further 22 people were arrested during the FA Cup final policing operation, for offences such as affray, assault, possession of drugs and drunk and disorderly behaviour.