Manchester United fan gets 4-year ban for Hillsborough-related shirt at FA Cup

A fan who attended the FA Cup final wearing a Manchester United jersey with the number “97” and the words “Not Enough” on the back was banned from attending matches for four years and fined 1,000 pounds on Monday.

Despite the ban, James White “smiled and chuckled” after receiving his punishment, according to the Associated Press. The shirt was in reference to the Hillsborough Stadium disaster that killed 97 Liverpool fans in April of 1989.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in London to “displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress,” wrote AP on Monday.

Manchester City won the FA Cup final 2-1 against Manchester United, who are a huge rival of Liverpool themselves.

“It is hard to imagine a more offensive reference to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster,” district judge Mark Jabbitt said, per AP. Jabbitt said the shirt bore a “hateful expression,” called it an “abhorrent message” and said the impact of the actions are “profound and distressing.”

White was spotted in the shirt on social media and security tracked him down and arrested him shortly after.

“You haven’t even asked me what the T-shirt means,” White said to police at the time of his arrest. “My grandad died aged 97 and didn’t have enough kids.”

White has multiple previous convictions, as recent as 2021, but this is the first sports-related offense.

The tragedy itself occurred at Hillsborough Sheffield in northern England, during an FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Thousands of Liverpool fans flooded a standing-room section behind a goal in the arena, and victims were crushed against metal fences, trampled or suffocated, per AP.

“How dare he make us feel like this,” Diane Lynn, vice chair of Hillsborough Survivor Supporters Alliance, said of White. She mentioned that the disaster was “very personal” and that survivors still suffer from guilt.

Even in 2023, the Hillsborough tragedy, along with other disasters in the sport, are chanted at football stadiums in what the Premier League has condemned as “tragedy chanting.”

“Two months ago, Chelsea apologized for their fans who taunted Liverpool visitors in chants that referred to Hillsborough. A few days earlier, City had apologized to Liverpool for similar choruses of cheers,” wrote AP on Monday.

The sport is continuing to work hard to appeal to fans to end the hateful chants, but it seems that more work is needed after the actions of James White at the FA Cup final.