'No crime committed' when ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ banner was flown over stadium
23 June 2020, 08:13 | Updated: 24 June 2020, 00:06
Police have said no crimes were committed when a 'White Lives Matter Burnley' banner was flown over their football match against Manchester City.
The banner appeared in the sky over the Etihad Stadium on Monday evening shortly after the start of the Premier League clash.
Burnley were quick to criticise the stunt, branding it "offensive" and saying it "in no way" represents the club's views.
Fan Jake Hepple claimed responsibility for the stunt, writing on Facebook: "I'd like to take this time to apologise .. to absolutely f***ing nobody!"
The message stood a stark and unwelcome contrast to the shows of unity and support that have taken place since the Premier League resumed, with all players wearing 'Black Lives Matter' on their shirts and taking a knee before kick-off.
Police investigating the incident said on Tuesday that "no criminal offences have been disclosed at this time."
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis tells @LBC the decision of some Burnley fans to fly a "White Lives Matter" banner over last night's match at the Etihad was "inappropriate" and showed "bad judgement".— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) June 23, 2020
"It was a really stupid thing to do."
In a statement, Chief Superintendent Russ Procter, of Lancashire Police, said: "Today Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the 'White Lives Matter' banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night.
"After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time.
"We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority."
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told LBC the decision of some Burnley fans to fly the banner over last night's match at the Etihad was "inappropriate" and showed "bad judgement".
"It was a really stupid thing to do," he told Nick Ferrari.
In a statement, the club said: “Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.
“We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor.
“This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.
“The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind.
“We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.”
Burnley captain Mee spoke angrily about the banner, insisting the players on the field were sickened by what they saw above their heads.
"We as a group of players condemn it, we're ashamed, we're embarrassed," he said.
"It completely misses the point of what we're trying to achieve as a football community.
"It's a minority of our supporters, I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that. It definitely had a had massive impact on us to see that in the sky.
"We were embarrassed, disappointed, upset. We are embarrassed that our name was in it. That they tried to attach it to our club. It doesn't belong anywhere near our club. Fans like that don't deserve to be around football."
Clarets manager Sean Dyche, who did not see the plane at the time, was also disappointed about the incident.
Dyche said: "As a club we can only apologise. It is unacceptable."
Fare, the European equality body which works with both UEFA and FIFA, condemned the stunt as part of a wider "racist backlash" centred around "a denial of equal rights".
"The racist backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement across Europe is a trend we have seen and documented," Fare's executive director Piara Powar said.
"Set against the BLM message of equal rights 'White Lives Matter' can only be motivated by racism and a denial of equal rights. It shows exactly why the fight for equality is so important and why the majority of people have supported it.
"At this stage we don't know who is behind this, but it's clear they don't see the relevance of the message to football or the impact that racism has on so many peoples lives.
"So be it. The movement, the issues that are being discussed and the change that will arise is unstoppable. History will judge that this was a moment that led to change."
Kick It Out, English football's anti-racism charity, said the sentiments of the banner represented a grave misunderstanding of the BLM initiative.
"The point of Black Lives Matter is not to diminish the importance of other people's lives," said the organisation's chair Sanjay Bhandari.
"It is to highlight that black people are being denied certain human rights simply by virtue of the colour of their skin. It is about equality. We shall continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for greater equality for all in football."