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Everton fan sentenced after mocking Munich air disaster


An Everton supporter has been sentenced for tragedy chanting after making gestures at Manchester United fans, mocking the Munich air disaster.

Mark Finnigan, 24, was at Old Trafford football stadium on 9 March 2024 watching the two teams play a Premier League game when Man United were awarded a penalty about 15 minutes into the match.

Finnigan was witnessed by a police officer to turn towards the home crowd and make a hand gesture which he later accepted could be interpreted as being related to the Munich air disaster.

Finnigan was removed from the ground and arrested on suspicion of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm, or distress under Section 4a of the Public Order Act.

Last year the Crown Prosecution Service updated its prosecution guidance on football-related offences, making it clear tragedy-related abuse can be prosecuted as a public order offence.

John Moran, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, said:

"Tragedy-related abuse is never acceptable and has a profound impact on fans and families who have been bereaved.

"Mark Finnigan's offensive gesture – made in full view of home and away fans – has landed him a football banning order, stopping him from watching the sport he loves."

Tragedy-related abuse is when fans sing, chant or gesture offensive messages about disasters or accidents involving players or fans – including references to the Hillsborough Disaster, Munich air disaster, Bradford Fire, Leeds fans killed in Istanbul, or the death of Emiliano Sala in a plane crash.

Douglas Mackay, CPS national lead prosecutor for sport, said:

"Sport is for everyone to enjoy and fans shouldn't face vile, tragedy-related abuse.

"We want supporters to show their passion without crossing the line into criminality and we're working with football authorities including the Premier League and the Football Association, as well as with clubs and the police, to stamp out this cruel behaviour.

"I hope this case will serve as a reminder to others that if they involve themselves in tragedy chanting, they face the risk of being excluded from the game they claim to love."

The Munich Air Disaster was a fatal plane crash which killed 23 people including eight Man United players and three members of club staff as they travelled back from a European Cup game in Belgrade.

Finnigan pleaded guilty to Section 4a of the Public Order Act at Manchester Magistrates' Court on Wednesday 10 April.

He was sentenced to a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a victim surcharge and prosecution costs. He was also issued with a three-year football banning order.

Notes to editors

Mark Finnigan, date of birth 25/11/1999, is from Liverpool.

He pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm, or distress, under Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986.

Twenty-three people died in the 1958 Munich air disaster, including eight Manchester United players and three members of club staff.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and CPS are committed to keeping football safe and inclusive to play and watch. Read more here.

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