Man laughs as he receives banning order for wearing offensive Hillsborough shirt at FA Cup final

James White arrives at Willesden Magistrates' Court, north west London. Credit: PA Images

A man laughed in the dock as he was banned from football matches after admitting wearing a shirt which had an offensive reference to the Hillsborough disaster on it.

James White, 33, of Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He has been banned from all regulated football games in the UK for four years after wearing the Manchester United football shirt at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final.

Manchester United FC have issued their own indefinite ban to White from all club activities including all matches at its Old Trafford stadium following his guilty plea.

He was also fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a surcharge of £400 and £85 in costs, as he appeared at Willesden Magistrates’ Court, London on Monday 19 June.

He smiled and chuckled after the order was made.

District judge Mark Jabbitt said: “It is hard to imagine a more … offensive reference to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.”

The judge added the shirt White wore bore a “hateful expression” – calling it an “abhorrent message” – and that the impact of his actions are “profound and distressing”.

James White, 33, of Warwickshire, outside Willesden Magistrates’ Court in London. Credit: PA Images

He wore the football shirt to the FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on 3 June.

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.”

The prosecution said White had “many” previous convictions, most recently in 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”.

The Hillsborough memorial outside Anfield in memory of the 97 that died. Credit: PA Images

Kevin Christie of CPS London North said: “White was wearing an offensive shirt which mocked many people and communities that were affected by the Hillsborough tragedy.

“White showed no sympathy towards those people, nor did he care about the impact of his actions.

“The CPS will continue to work with the police in cases involving tragedy chanting, and people who behave in this way will be brought to justice and will be banned from matches.”

Manchester United called the writing on White’s shirt “despicable” and said it extended an immediate three-year suspension to an indefinite ban from all club activities, including all matches at Old Trafford.

“Mockery of Hillsborough and other football tragedies is completely unacceptable and the club will continue to support firm action to eradicate it from the game,” the club added.

Following the sentencing, the FA said: “We welcome the decision of the Willesden Magistrates’ Court to issue James White with a four-year football banning order and a fine.

“His actions at the FA Cup final were reprehensible, and abuse that references Hillsborough or any football tragedy will not be tolerated at Wembley Stadium.

“We hope that today’s ruling sends a strong message that action will be taken against any perpetrators who behave in this way.”

White is the second football fan in a week to be banned from matches for mocking the Hillsborough disaster.

Tottenham fan Kieron Darlow, 25, was banned for three years after being found guilty of making a gesture towards Liverpool fans at the Liverpool v Spurs Premier League game at Anfield on 30 April.

Darlow admitted he made the gesture to suggest that fans without tickets had pushed forward in the tragedy and had been partly to blame for the crush that led to so many deaths, the CPS said.

Ninety-seven football fans 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.