Signalling their commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement, for the first week of its return all Premier League players have been wearing the movement’s slogan on the back of their kits in place of their surname and its logo on their sleeve. It seems, however, that despite these efforts to eradicate racism from on the football pitch, it is much more difficult to control what happens above the pitch.
During yesterday’s Man City v Burnley game, football fans and local residents were horrified to discover a banner proclaiming “White Lives Matter Burnley” being flown above the Etihad Stadium shortly after kick-off. This came just after players from both teams took to one knee to show solidarity with the BLM movement.
The stunt was unrelated to Burnley Football Club, and has left players, management and fans “ashamed and embarrassed”. Captain and defender Ben Mee said: “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.” In a statement released by the Club, they explained how those responsible will be banned for life, saying that they “stand against racism of any kind.”
Despite this, Lancashire police have stated that this was not a criminal offence.
Blackpool-based Air Ads were discovered to be the company behind the stunt, and have been known for similar stunt including flying a “Moyes Out” banner over Old Trafford. In conversation with the BBC, a representative for the company argued that the banners were legal, and that police had been informed in advance. They further said that the company did not “take sides”, having previously flown a Black Lives Matter manner.
While Air Ads carried out the stunt, however, it is still unknown who funded it. A social media post saw a Burnley supporter and associate of former EDL leader Tommy Robinson claim responsibility for the action, although this has since been deleted. The supporter claimed responsibility online before deleting his social media presence. Another figure with a history of football-related violence convictions has also been identified in connection to a WhatsApp group where money was allegedly sought to finance the plane.
As part of Burnley’s response, it is believed that the Club will project their “One Club For All” message inside their stadium at their home match on Thursday against Watford.
Writing for The Independent, Miguel Delaney argues that “this is genuinely a landmark political moment for the game”, and hopefully this will provide the catalyst for football clubs to really knuckle down on racist sentiments among fans.
Last modified: 24th June 2020