Manchester United fan 'ashamed' and hopes others 'think twice' after tragedy chanting conviction

  • ITV Granada Reports journalist Anna Youssef was at Manchester Magistrates Court for the sentencing

A Manchester United supporter says he is "ashamed" and hopes other fans "think twice" after being convicted of "tragedy chanting".

Michael Avery, 45, pleaded guilty to a public order offence after making gestures related to the Hillsborough and Heysel stadium disasters at the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester United and Liverpool.

Avery who was given a three-year football banning order and ordered to pay £1,205, said he was "deeply sorry".

He told Manchester Magistrates’ Court: “I just want to reiterate that I’m just deeply sorry and I really regret what I did. I’m ashamed and embarrassed.

“Everyone that knows me has obviously felt this as well. It’s just a difficult situation. I wish it never would have happened. I regret it terribly.

“I hope other people look on what’s happened to me and think twice before they do anything at football games.”

Tess Kenyon, prosecuting, told the court the case involved “tragedy chanting” at the Old Trafford game on 17 March, which was won 4-3 by Manchester United.

A video from an account on X was played in which Avery could be seen putting his hand over his face with his fingers splayed.

The court heard the gesture was a reference to the Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 Liverpool fans died following a crush at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

Avery was also seen pushing with two hands, which the court was told was a reference to the Heysel stadium disaster, where 39 people died at a match between Juventus and Liverpool.

The defendant, wearing a black long-sleeved polo-shirt, sat with his head down as the short video was played twice.

Ms Kenyon said: “The defendant’s gestures are abusive in the context of what they denote and they were directed towards Liverpool fans at this football match.”

She told the court the video went viral online and the following day the defendant presented himself at a police station where he told officers people were “getting the wrong end of the stick”.

Ian Huggan, defending, said Avery was a “family man” with a job in the construction industry.

He said: “He feels that he has not only let himself down but his family and close friends.”

Magistrates told Avery, of Cranham Road, Manchester, he was banned from from attending football matches in the UK for three years and would have to surrender his passport when certain games were played outside the UK.

He was given a fine of £800 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £320 and prosecution costs of £85.