MARTIN SAMUEL: Racism may not be inside Burnley FC, but it is building up all around it


Steven Smith runs a dry stone-wall business out of Cliviger in Lancashire.

He once chained himself to the railings at Burnley town hall in protest at a twinning project with a location in Pakistan, and took to walking the streets in a wooden sandwich board displaying his views on immigration, Islam and political correctness.

Sometimes he would attach it to his car and drive around town instead. He sounds a bit of a crank, and not in that lovable English eccentric way, either.

The banner flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of Burnley’s game against Manchester City 

However, at the 2001 general election, standing as a candidate for the British National Party, Smith earned the support of more than one in 10 Burnley voters, 11.3 per cent of the ballots cast. It was the party’s second best result nationwide, bettered only by leader Nick Griffin.

The BNP still came fourth in Burnley but across three general elections contesting the seat, it never polled less than nine per cent of the vote. In 2002, the borough council elections returned three seats for the BNP and that number increased in 2006.

Yet when the media descended on Burnley this week to get under the skin of the town after the white lives matter flypast, a different picture emerged.

They found a lot of upset and embarrassed people.

‘Racism is not what Burnley is about,’ said one citizen. But that isn’t entirely true. Racism is what Burnley’s about — and race, certainly.

That’s not the same as saying the townspeople are racist, but it is undeniable that the subject is a local issue.

There were a lot of embarrassed people in Burnley in response to Monday night's banner

There were a lot of embarrassed people in Burnley in response to Monday night’s banner

Before the 2001 election there were race riots — white and Asian — and when a Government taskforce came to Burnley to pick over the details, 58 per cent of those participating in a survey blamed ‘racism by Asian people’ for starting them. A majority also said the lack of mixing between white and Asian communities was a factor, but only 18 per cent thought breaking down those barriers would help.

So we cannot pretend about Burnley. Those who flew an intentionally antagonistic banner over the Etihad Stadium — the objective was believed to be a walk-off from Raheem Sterling — have a constituency there. And while it might not be inside the football club, it certainly congregates around it.

In 2002, the year Smith hung a BNP banner from a 30-foot mill chimney overlooking the town’s biggest road, his party also left its calling cards around pubs near the football ground, directing those interested to a website Burnley Bravepages, the remnants of which can still be found.

It quotes Audrey, sister of Burnley’s sitting Labour MP from the time, Peter Pike. ‘It’s incredible,’ she says, ‘almost everyone I know, or speak to in Burnley, say they are voting BNP.’ These days, more race-related incidents are reported at Turf Moor than at any football ground in the Premier League.

But, don’t worry. Burnley’s not about that at all.

If, in the 21st century, you are what you tweet, Burnley fan Jake Hepple, who wants to take credit for the banner, would appear to be a straight-up racist, despite his denials, or claims of being high on drugs when using offensive language.

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets 'a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language'

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets ‘a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language’

He routinely posts about ‘P****’ and ‘tree swinging spear throwers’ and those words are either part of your discourse or not. Cocaine doesn’t give a person a new vocabulary, it merely lowers his inhibitions about the one he has.

Hepple’s girlfriend talks of people being ‘sent back on banana boats’. Both have been sacked from their jobs, which is causing outrage among those who are shocked that actions have consequences and a small business might not want its brand associated with racism and/or drug use. But ignore Hepple for a moment and have a look at the reaction to his work.

Read comments online, when people beneath a cloak of anonymity say what they think, not what they believe a reporter from The Guardian interviewing Burnley shoppers wants to hear. View the hashtag #IstandwithJakeHepple.

For while, no one who has thought rationally about the subject for more than a minute believes that if Black Lives Matter, white lives do not, that is not how the message is being perceived.

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are significant swathes of people who also feel left behind and sold out by governments.

Misguidedly, they see any talk of black advancement as pushing them further down.

Their ancestors were not slaves but nor do they feel connected to the wealth of men like Edward Colston. More likely, they would subscribe to the view Johnny Speight put in the mouth of his creation Alf Garnett, that of living under 20 Prime Ministers ‘and being bloody poor under every one of them’.

There has been no boom in Burnley of late. The textile mills may have benefited from imperial Britain, but the descendants of textile workers have been largely passed by since.

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are swathes of people who feel left behind by governments

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are swathes of people who feel left behind by governments

The money that fuels regenerations in urban centres such as Manchester and Liverpool does not visit Burnley.

It is the 11th most deprived area in Britain, out of 317. It has a high proportion of adults on benefits, higher crime and lower educational attainment than the rest of the county of Lancashire.

It has higher rates of infant mortality and alcohol abuse, and the population has been in steady decline this century. If Burnley makes the news it is often for negative reasons.

Not just racial tensions, either. In 2015, a mid-terrace, three-bedroomed house put on the market for £9,000 was tagged the cheapest in Britain. For very different reasons, Burnley suffers reputational damage that will be all too familiar to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now, anyone with the money to buy cocaine and hire planes — even as part of a whip-round — isn’t poor. Not all racists are poor.

Their poster boy Tommy Robinson certainly isn’t and 15 years ago the BNP thrived as much in Burnley’s relatively upmarket areas as in the town’s poorest wards.

Yet if we simply bury the thought that Burnley’s politics is driven by race, fail to explore the causes of that, and dismiss Monday’s event as the act of an extremist splinter group, we miss the point.

There is a reason that in certain parts of the country the legitimacy and meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement are being exploited and wilfully misread.

Micah Richards, the most eloquent voice on the subject on the night, spoke of wanting to engage on these issues.

Burnley captain Ben Mee was condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club

Burnley captain Ben Mee was condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club

Mike Wedderburn, the Sky Sports presenter, has addressed this, too.

‘Many of you have been asking why the words on the banner flown over the Etihad are offensive,’ he explained, in a brief video. ‘Taken in isolation, of course they are not, but in context they absolutely are.

‘They are a deliberate challenge to the Black Lives Matter cause. Now, let’s be absolutely clear: nobody is saying white lives don’t matter. Of course they matter. But, please try to understand, black people’s lives are not like those of the white population…’

Wedderburn then details why: the absence of opportunity and influence, the daily suspicion, the negative depictions, the violence. ‘Our lives have not mattered,’ he concludes.

It should not be hard to comprehend this and Ben Mee, Burnley’s club captain, was understandably condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club.

In the aftermath, Darren Bent even claimed that Burnley do not have any black players, which must have come as a surprise to Dwight McNeil, Ali Koiki and, until this week when his contract ended, Aaron Lennon. Burnley as a club also go to enormous lengths to be inclusive.

Yet there is a reason racism is never far from the surface in the area and few problems go away by pretending they don’t exist.

The banner spoke to a community who believe their lives don’t matter, either. Maybe if football takes a knee once the crowd has returned, the reaction may reveal a more accurate picture of what this country is about, and how far we still have to go.

Usual suspects for AJ-Fury

Daniel Kinahan, the alleged gangster in the middle of the Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua fight, is no longer involved, despite being lauded as the matchmaker earlier this month.

Potential broadcasters and sponsors were coming under mounting pressure to boycott any fight with his involvement, meaning the money might suffer. So, in true Keyser Soze style — like that, he’s gone. 

Of course he is. 

This week has shown culture of complacent arrogance on and off pitch at Arsenal 

That David Luiz’s representative has close links with Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, is advanced as the reason behind his contract extension, and that of another client, Cedric Soares. Certainly, little that has happened on the field suggests either was the obvious decision.

Luiz returned in calamitous form against Manchester City, while Soares is yet to play since arriving in January on loan. The deeper truth, however, may be even more worrying.

Without European football — perhaps of any kind — Arsenal must sell to buy. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may yet solve that problem, but Arsenal want him to stay. Looking on the bright side, then, that leaves the sale of other big-ticket items such as Mesut Ozil or Alexandre Lacazette. 

Yet what revenue will they reasonably create? Little that has gone on at Arsenal across several seasons has caused a positive buzz, and the last major player they sold, Alexis Sanchez, stunk out the place at his new club. 

Matteo Guendouzi, taunting Brighton’s players over his earnings, speaks of a culture of arrogance and complacency.

Arsenal’s players are shop soiled and if Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in, his buying potential is limited. This, more than cordial business relations, could explain why Luiz and Soares were retained.

If Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in by selling players, his buying potential will be limited

If Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in by selling players, his buying potential will be limited

Unforced error for Novak and his reckless tennis party 

It is no surprise to hear Major League Baseball’s return on July 19 may be affected by 40 positive tests for Covid-19 among players and staff. This is a disease that has to be taken seriously.

Countries led by plastic strongmen such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil suffer. The United States is approaching 122,000 deaths, Brazil nearly 54,000. Trump makes money from golf and hurried the sport back into competition, with predictable results. Social distancing rules were ignored, and a spike in positive tests harmed the sport.

Novak Djokovic is not the leader of Serbia, but he might as well be.

So when he puts on an ill-considered tournament, invites his mates, turns it into a party, a meet-and-greet with fans, and generally behaves as if the disease does not exist, it is no surprise that infection spreads.

In the aftermath, players and commentators lined up to question his intelligence, but also to call into doubt upcoming Grand Slam events. ‘What now?’ asked Martina Navratilova.

‘US Open? Roland Garros? We have a lot of work to do.’

Mitchell Krueger, a player ranked 195 in the world, called Djokovic’s decision ‘bone-headed’ and claimed it put major tournaments at risk, affecting the livelihoods of more than 300 players.

He’s right, of course. As other sports have proved, it is perfectly possible for competitions to go ahead, but with sensible precautions.

Djokovic’s recklessness has damaged tennis. After dangerous flirtations with prayer power and 5G technology conspiracy theories, this was one crank call too far.

Novak Djokovic's recent recklessness with the Adria Tour has served to damage tennis

Novak Djokovic’s recent recklessness with the Adria Tour has served to damage tennis

Is patience really a virtue for Gibson? 

When his assistant Steve McClaren was considering multiple job offers, Sir Alex Ferguson told him not to pick a club — pick an owner. McClaren rejected Terry Brown (West Ham) and Rupert Lowe (Southampton), and went with Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough.

Using Ferguson’s logic, he made an excellent choice. Since 2010, however, Middlesbrough have lurched from Tony Mowbray to Aitor Karanka, from Garry Monk to Tony Pulis. 

This week, they sacked club favourite Jonathan Woodgate, in his first job, after 40 matches and replaced him with Neil Warnock, in his 18th managerial role. What happened to Gibson’s much-admired stewardship?

What has happened to Steve Gibson's much-admired stewardship of Middlesbrough?

What has happened to Steve Gibson’s much-admired stewardship of Middlesbrough?

Agents worth every penny for Liverpool 

For the second year in succession, Liverpool spent more on agents’ fees than any other club in the Premier League, £74.1million across two campaigns.

Given that this is the most successful recruitment policy since Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal, however, who is complaining? 

These fees are more than covered by a Champions League and title double, meaning Liverpool’s expenses were worth every penny. Arsenal’s? West Ham’s? Manchester United’s?

Priority for prawn sandwich brigade!

The promise that fans will return to stadiums early next season may not be entirely as advertised. 

Clubs are discussing a phased return and no prizes for guessing the priority. 

An executive box may be more conducive to the spread of a virus than an open stand, but those prawn sandwiches won’t buy themselves. 

Roy Keane says David De Gea is overrated. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he is the best goalkeeper in the world. There could be a middle ground. Maybe he’s neither.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane have differing opinons about goalkeeper David De Gea

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane have differing opinons about goalkeeper David De Gea

MARTIN SAMUEL: Racism may not be inside Burnley FC, but it is building up all around it


Steven Smith runs a dry stone-wall business out of Cliviger in Lancashire.

He once chained himself to the railings at Burnley town hall in protest at a twinning project with a location in Pakistan, and took to walking the streets in a wooden sandwich board displaying his views on immigration, Islam and political correctness.

Sometimes he would attach it to his car and drive around town instead. He sounds a bit of a crank, and not in that lovable English eccentric way, either.

The banner flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of Burnley’s game against Manchester City 

However, at the 2001 general election, standing as a candidate for the British National Party, Smith earned the support of more than one in 10 Burnley voters, 11.3 per cent of the ballots cast. It was the party’s second best result nationwide, bettered only by leader Nick Griffin.

The BNP still came fourth in Burnley but across three general elections contesting the seat, it never polled less than nine per cent of the vote. In 2002, the borough council elections returned three seats for the BNP and that number increased in 2006.

Yet when the media descended on Burnley this week to get under the skin of the town after the white lives matter flypast, a different picture emerged.

They found a lot of upset and embarrassed people.

‘Racism is not what Burnley is about,’ said one citizen. But that isn’t entirely true. Racism is what Burnley’s about — and race, certainly.

That’s not the same as saying the townspeople are racist, but it is undeniable that the subject is a local issue.

There were a lot of embarrassed people in Burnley in response to Monday night's banner

There were a lot of embarrassed people in Burnley in response to Monday night’s banner

Before the 2001 election there were race riots — white and Asian — and when a Government taskforce came to Burnley to pick over the details, 58 per cent of those participating in a survey blamed ‘racism by Asian people’ for starting them. A majority also said the lack of mixing between white and Asian communities was a factor, but only 18 per cent thought breaking down those barriers would help.

So we cannot pretend about Burnley. Those who flew an intentionally antagonistic banner over the Etihad Stadium — the objective was believed to be a walk-off from Raheem Sterling — have a constituency there. And while it might not be inside the football club, it certainly congregates around it.

In 2002, the year Smith hung a BNP banner from a 30-foot mill chimney overlooking the town’s biggest road, his party also left its calling cards around pubs near the football ground, directing those interested to a website Burnley Bravepages, the remnants of which can still be found.

It quotes Audrey, sister of Burnley’s sitting Labour MP from the time, Peter Pike. ‘It’s incredible,’ she says, ‘almost everyone I know, or speak to in Burnley, say they are voting BNP.’ These days, more race-related incidents are reported at Turf Moor than at any football ground in the Premier League.

But, don’t worry. Burnley’s not about that at all.

If, in the 21st century, you are what you tweet, Burnley fan Jake Hepple, who wants to take credit for the banner, would appear to be a straight-up racist, despite his denials, or claims of being high on drugs when using offensive language.

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets 'a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language'

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets ‘a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language’

He routinely posts about ‘P****’ and ‘tree swinging spear throwers’ and those words are either part of your discourse or not. Cocaine doesn’t give a person a new vocabulary, it merely lowers his inhibitions about the one he has.

Hepple’s girlfriend talks of people being ‘sent back on banana boats’. Both have been sacked from their jobs, which is causing outrage among those who are shocked that actions have consequences and a small business might not want its brand associated with racism and/or drug use. But ignore Hepple for a moment and have a look at the reaction to his work.

Read comments online, when people beneath a cloak of anonymity say what they think, not what they believe a reporter from The Guardian interviewing Burnley shoppers wants to hear. View the hashtag #IstandwithJakeHepple.

For while, no one who has thought rationally about the subject for more than a minute believes that if Black Lives Matter, white lives do not, that is not how the message is being perceived.

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are significant swathes of people who also feel left behind and sold out by governments.

Misguidedly, they see any talk of black advancement as pushing them further down.

Their ancestors were not slaves but nor do they feel connected to the wealth of men like Edward Colston. More likely, they would subscribe to the view Johnny Speight put in the mouth of his creation Alf Garnett, that of living under 20 Prime Ministers ‘and being bloody poor under every one of them’.

There has been no boom in Burnley of late. The textile mills may have benefited from imperial Britain, but the descendants of textile workers have been largely passed by since.

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are swathes of people who feel left behind by governments

In Burnley, and elsewhere, there are swathes of people who feel left behind by governments

The money that fuels regenerations in urban centres such as Manchester and Liverpool does not visit Burnley.

It is the 11th most deprived area in Britain, out of 317. It has a high proportion of adults on benefits, higher crime and lower educational attainment than the rest of the county of Lancashire.

It has higher rates of infant mortality and alcohol abuse, and the population has been in steady decline this century. If Burnley makes the news it is often for negative reasons.

Not just racial tensions, either. In 2015, a mid-terrace, three-bedroomed house put on the market for £9,000 was tagged the cheapest in Britain. For very different reasons, Burnley suffers reputational damage that will be all too familiar to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now, anyone with the money to buy cocaine and hire planes — even as part of a whip-round — isn’t poor. Not all racists are poor.

Their poster boy Tommy Robinson certainly isn’t and 15 years ago the BNP thrived as much in Burnley’s relatively upmarket areas as in the town’s poorest wards.

Yet if we simply bury the thought that Burnley’s politics is driven by race, fail to explore the causes of that, and dismiss Monday’s event as the act of an extremist splinter group, we miss the point.

There is a reason that in certain parts of the country the legitimacy and meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement are being exploited and wilfully misread.

Micah Richards, the most eloquent voice on the subject on the night, spoke of wanting to engage on these issues.

Burnley captain Ben Mee was condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club

Burnley captain Ben Mee was condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club

Mike Wedderburn, the Sky Sports presenter, has addressed this, too.

‘Many of you have been asking why the words on the banner flown over the Etihad are offensive,’ he explained, in a brief video. ‘Taken in isolation, of course they are not, but in context they absolutely are.

‘They are a deliberate challenge to the Black Lives Matter cause. Now, let’s be absolutely clear: nobody is saying white lives don’t matter. Of course they matter. But, please try to understand, black people’s lives are not like those of the white population…’

Wedderburn then details why: the absence of opportunity and influence, the daily suspicion, the negative depictions, the violence. ‘Our lives have not mattered,’ he concludes.

It should not be hard to comprehend this and Ben Mee, Burnley’s club captain, was understandably condemnatory of an incident that has damaged the club.

In the aftermath, Darren Bent even claimed that Burnley do not have any black players, which must have come as a surprise to Dwight McNeil, Ali Koiki and, until this week when his contract ended, Aaron Lennon. Burnley as a club also go to enormous lengths to be inclusive.

Yet there is a reason racism is never far from the surface in the area and few problems go away by pretending they don’t exist.

The banner spoke to a community who believe their lives don’t matter, either. Maybe if football takes a knee once the crowd has returned, the reaction may reveal a more accurate picture of what this country is about, and how far we still have to go.

Usual suspects for AJ-Fury

Daniel Kinahan, the alleged gangster in the middle of the Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua fight, is no longer involved, despite being lauded as the matchmaker earlier this month.

Potential broadcasters and sponsors were coming under mounting pressure to boycott any fight with his involvement, meaning the money might suffer. So, in true Keyser Soze style — like that, he’s gone. 

Of course he is. 

This week has shown culture of complacent arrogance on and off pitch at Arsenal 

That David Luiz’s representative has close links with Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, is advanced as the reason behind his contract extension, and that of another client, Cedric Soares. Certainly, little that has happened on the field suggests either was the obvious decision.

Luiz returned in calamitous form against Manchester City, while Soares is yet to play since arriving in January on loan. The deeper truth, however, may be even more worrying.

Without European football — perhaps of any kind — Arsenal must sell to buy. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may yet solve that problem, but Arsenal want him to stay. Looking on the bright side, then, that leaves the sale of other big-ticket items such as Mesut Ozil or Alexandre Lacazette. 

Yet what revenue will they reasonably create? Little that has gone on at Arsenal across several seasons has caused a positive buzz, and the last major player they sold, Alexis Sanchez, stunk out the place at his new club. 

Matteo Guendouzi, taunting Brighton’s players over his earnings, speaks of a culture of arrogance and complacency.

Arsenal’s players are shop soiled and if Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in, his buying potential is limited. This, more than cordial business relations, could explain why Luiz and Soares were retained.

If Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in by selling players, his buying potential will be limited

If Mikel Arteta cannot bring money in by selling players, his buying potential will be limited

Unforced error for Novak and his reckless tennis party 

It is no surprise to hear Major League Baseball’s return on July 19 may be affected by 40 positive tests for Covid-19 among players and staff. This is a disease that has to be taken seriously.

Countries led by plastic strongmen such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil suffer. The United States is approaching 122,000 deaths, Brazil nearly 54,000. Trump makes money from golf and hurried the sport back into competition, with predictable results. Social distancing rules were ignored, and a spike in positive tests harmed the sport.

Novak Djokovic is not the leader of Serbia, but he might as well be.

So when he puts on an ill-considered tournament, invites his mates, turns it into a party, a meet-and-greet with fans, and generally behaves as if the disease does not exist, it is no surprise that infection spreads.

In the aftermath, players and commentators lined up to question his intelligence, but also to call into doubt upcoming Grand Slam events. ‘What now?’ asked Martina Navratilova.

‘US Open? Roland Garros? We have a lot of work to do.’

Mitchell Krueger, a player ranked 195 in the world, called Djokovic’s decision ‘bone-headed’ and claimed it put major tournaments at risk, affecting the livelihoods of more than 300 players.

He’s right, of course. As other sports have proved, it is perfectly possible for competitions to go ahead, but with sensible precautions.

Djokovic’s recklessness has damaged tennis. After dangerous flirtations with prayer power and 5G technology conspiracy theories, this was one crank call too far.

Novak Djokovic's recent recklessness with the Adria Tour has served to damage tennis

Novak Djokovic’s recent recklessness with the Adria Tour has served to damage tennis

Is patience really a virtue for Gibson? 

When his assistant Steve McClaren was considering multiple job offers, Sir Alex Ferguson told him not to pick a club — pick an owner. McClaren rejected Terry Brown (West Ham) and Rupert Lowe (Southampton), and went with Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough.

Using Ferguson’s logic, he made an excellent choice. Since 2010, however, Middlesbrough have lurched from Tony Mowbray to Aitor Karanka, from Garry Monk to Tony Pulis. 

This week, they sacked club favourite Jonathan Woodgate, in his first job, after 40 matches and replaced him with Neil Warnock, in his 18th managerial role. What happened to Gibson’s much-admired stewardship?

What has happened to Steve Gibson's much-admired stewardship of Middlesbrough?

What has happened to Steve Gibson’s much-admired stewardship of Middlesbrough?

Agents worth every penny for Liverpool 

For the second year in succession, Liverpool spent more on agents’ fees than any other club in the Premier League, £74.1million across two campaigns.

Given that this is the most successful recruitment policy since Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal, however, who is complaining? 

These fees are more than covered by a Champions League and title double, meaning Liverpool’s expenses were worth every penny. Arsenal’s? West Ham’s? Manchester United’s?

Priority for prawn sandwich brigade!

The promise that fans will return to stadiums early next season may not be entirely as advertised. 

Clubs are discussing a phased return and no prizes for guessing the priority. 

An executive box may be more conducive to the spread of a virus than an open stand, but those prawn sandwiches won’t buy themselves. 

Roy Keane says David De Gea is overrated. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he is the best goalkeeper in the world. There could be a middle ground. Maybe he’s neither.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane have differing opinons about goalkeeper David De Gea

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane have differing opinons about goalkeeper David De Gea

Burnley players take a knee as fans Black Lives Matter messages displayed against Watford


Burnley players take a knee and their fans on Zoom hold up homemade ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs on their return to Premier League action… three days after a ‘White Lives Matter’ plane flew over their last game

  • Burnley reinforced their support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement
  • Players from Burnley and Watford took a knee after kick-off on Thursday
  • Fans holding ‘Black Lives Matter’ placards were shown on the giant screens
  • The club wanted to show their anger at ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ banner
  • The banner was flown over the Etihad Stadium during match against Man City

Burnley players reinforced their support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the aftermath of a controversial plane stunt organised by some of their fans which was condemned by the club’s captain Ben Mee. 

The Premier League club wanted to demonstrate their anger at the ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ banner flown over the Etihad Stadium during their Premier League defeat by Manchester City on  Monday.

Fans holding ‘Black Lives Matter’ placards were shown on giant screens inside the stadium before the players took a knee on the pitch on Thursday night.

Burnley and Watford players took a knee after kick-off of the league game at Turf Moor 

Players and club officials were appalled by the stunt over Manchester City’s stadium before kick-off on Monday night.

After the 5-0 defeat an emotional Mee made it clear that the entire squad were disgusted by the decision to fly the banner over the ground.

He said: ‘I’m ashamed, embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium.

Burnley players reinforced their support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement on Thursday

Burnley players reinforced their support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement on Thursday

‘We have a group of lads in there who are embarrassed.

‘These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They completely missed the point and don’t represent what we’re about. It’s a small minority of people.’

Burnley issued a statement during the match on Monday that condemned the banner and vowed to ban for life those supporters responsible.

Fans holding 'Black Lives Matter' placards were shown on giant screens inside the stadium

Fans holding ‘Black Lives Matter’ placards were shown on giant screens inside the stadium

The Burnley fan behind the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner stunt was sacked from his job at an engineering firm on Thursday.

Jake Hepple, 24, was dismissed from his role as a welder at Lancashire-based Paradigm Precision, with the company saying it ‘did not condone or tolerate racism in any form’. 

And his girlfriend Megan Rambadt, 21, wept after being fired from a beauty salon in the town, it was reported. 

Players, fans and club officials wanted to send a powerful message on Thursday night

Players, fans and club officials wanted to send a powerful message on Thursday night

It came as Mr Hepple used an interview with MailOnline to announce he did not regret the stunt, and tried to excuse his use of the word P*** online by saying he sometimes gets ‘a bit coked up and uses offensive language’. 

He said: ‘I’m not racist. I know people are trying to make out to be one but I’m not. I’ve got lots of Black and Asian friends and this banner was actually inspired by the Black Lives Movement.

‘We were not trying to offend the movement or black people. I believe that it’s also important to acknowledge that white lives matter too. That’s all we were trying to say.’

A plane carrying a banner reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team's match with Manchester on Monday

A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester on Monday 

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets 'a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language'

Jake Hepple (pictured with his girlfriend Megan Rambadt), who posted a video of the stunt online and has used the P*** word on Facebook and Twitter, admitted he sometimes gets ‘a bit drunk and coked up and uses offensive language’

No crime was committed when ‘White Lives Matter’ banner was flown over Ethiad stadium, police say 


Police investigating a Burnley football fan who chartered a plane and flew a ‘White Lives Matter’ banner above the Etihad stadium say no crime was committed. 

Jake Hepple, claimed responsibility for last night’s pre-match stunt and wrote on Facebook: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight and its message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’, which flew over the stadium just after Manchester City and Burnley FC players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Lancashire Police today confirmed that Mr Hepple, from Colne, who has posted in support of the EDL and has been pictured with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, had not been found to have committed a criminal offence.   

Ch Supt Russ Procter said: ‘Today Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night.

‘After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time. We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority.’

Despite this Hepple’s employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were looking into his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

Earlier today sources close to the police investigation told The Telegraph that those involved could be quizzed over a racially aggravated public order offence related to the message, rather than the flight itself.

It came as Blackpool Airport – which was used by the plane – announced it had suspended all banner towing operations ‘with immediate effect’ and said it ‘did not condone’ the message. 

Scroll down for video.  

A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester yesterday evening

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Mr Hepple's girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media

Mr Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media 

Jake Hepple posted an image of the plane on Facebook yesterday and wrote: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!

What could the banner organisers be charged with? 

Lancashire Police say they are investigating last nights incident to see if any criminal charges could be brought, but refused to give details. 

However, previous cases suggest there are several avenues if the authorities were to consider charges, including: 

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – A person is guilty of an offence if they ‘use threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’ or ‘displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive].’

Air Navigation Order 2009 – This makes it an offence to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft. It is not clear if this happened in last night’s incident.   

‘It’s now apparently racist to say White Lives Matter, the day after three white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the TV is Black Lives Matter after George Floyd got murdered. What a mad world we live in.’  

Other members of the Suicide Squad – a group of hooligan Burnley fans – are thought to have spent the past week crowdfunding for the banner and flyover. 

Last night’s stunt led to outrage and has been widely condemned, with Burnley captain Ben Mee saying he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’.

Speaking after the match, which his side lost 5-0, he noted that the Burnley players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned. 

The company that operated the plane, Air Ads, is based in Stockport and flies from Blackpool Airport. However, it emerged this afternoon that the airport had suspended flights operated by the company pending an investigation. 

One of its directors, Alan Elliott, was fined £2,000 in 2017 for flying 400ft from Goodison Park after being paid by an Everton fan to display a sign emblazoned with ‘Thank you Mr Kenwright’ in support of the club chairman. 

Under the Air Navigation Order 2009, aircraft are not allowed to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft within a 600-yard radius of the highest obstacle. 

MailOnline has contacted the Civil Aviation Authority to ask if the same offence was committed last night.

A former pilot at Blackpool Airport claimed they knew the pilot at Air Ads and confirmed the firm used to be run by Alan Elliot, who died a few weeks ago.

The pilot, who did not wish to be named, told Sky News that the banners are made to order and the flights cost around £700, with pilots taking around £100 per flight.

He added: ‘We would assume whoever paid for the banner would get done for it.’

Chequered history of air banner firm who provided plane for ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt

The Cessna C-182 was chartered from Air Ads Ltd, which is based at Blackpool Airport. The small aircraft was spotted on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 leaving the seaside resort and flying over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, shortly after players and support staff had held a minute’s silence for Covid-19 victims and went down on one knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt

One pilot from Air Ads Ltd, Alan Elliott, from Bolton, was prosecuted in 2017 having flown a banner over Goodison Park, Everton.

The pilot was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 prosecution costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after he flew within 400 feet of the stadium – endangering the public and his aircraft.

Mr Elliot had been paid £800 to fly the banner. Though he should not have been below 1,000ft in a congested area such as a city centre or within a radius of 600 yards of the highest obstacle.

The rules are designed to allow a small aircraft the chance to glide to safety if its engine fails.

Mr Elliott died on May 3, according to his family.

In July 2010 the company wrote off an aircraft which crashed into a hangar while refuelling in Compton Abbas Airfield, Dorset.

According to an air accident report by the Civil Aviation Authority, when the aircraft restarted, it lurched forward and crashed into the hangar before the pilot was able to react. 

Air Ads was involved in a crash on July 18, 2010, when the pilot wrote off a plane by mistakenly revving up the engine while taxiing on the runway and slammed into a hangar. 

The pilot, who was not named in an incident report, escaped uninjured. 

Air Ads Ltd has been involved in several other high-profile publicity stunts, including flying a banner over Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium reading ‘Go Clarets’ for a local newspaper and advertising a marriage proposal. 

Alan Elliott, who was involved in the Everton incident, died on May 3 this year, according to his family. His son, Alan Mark Elliott, is still listed as a director. MailOnline has contacted the company for comment. 

Bob Stinger, one of the pilots associated with Air Ads, denied being at the controls last night but declined to comment further. 

Burnley captain Ben Mee said he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’ of the stunt, and revealed that his players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned.

‘I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium,’ he said. ‘It is not what we are about. 

‘They have missed what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about.

‘I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game. 

‘It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.’ 

Mr Hepple’s employer, Paradigm Precision in Burnley, said today: ‘We are aware of the incident that took place and are currently investigating the conduct of our employee. Once we have completed our enquiries, we will release a full statement.’ 

Chief Supt Russ Procter, from Lancashire Police, said: ‘We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.

‘We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority.’  

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

‘I condemn the actions of those responsible for the banner flown over the Etihad Stadium yesterday evening.

‘We will always support the police and other relevant authorities to investigate any reports of inappropriate or illegal activities, providing whatever assistance we can.’ 

Blackpool Airport said: ‘The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.

‘Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator’s discretion. 

‘Following an emergency review this morning, Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool.’  

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was 'like a foreign country' before adding in a follow-up post, 'They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s'

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done 

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Last night's aerial display reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League 

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

Ben Mee, who was born is Sale, said Burnley tried to halt the plans once they became aware of what was to follow.

Fan behind plane posted racist ‘P***’ messages online while bosses suspend his girlfriend from beauty job after racist tweets

The Burnley fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium shared a series of racist slurs on social media, it emerged today, as his girlfriend was suspended from her beauty job for her own bigoted posts. 

Jake Hepple ranted about ‘P***s’ while his partner, Megan Rambadt, tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’. 

Ms Rambadt's tweet about Burnley being like a 'foreign country' that 'needs sorting'

Ms Rambadt’s tweet about Burnley being like a ‘foreign country’ that ‘needs sorting’ 

Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL on Facebook and appeared in a photo with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for the stunt last night, writing: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter.

Lancashire Police today confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were investigating his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

It came as Solace Foot Health and Reflexology, which employs Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, condemned ‘abhorrently racist’ comments she had posted on social media and said they would ‘deal with the situation internally’.  

‘As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen,’ he added. ‘The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again.’

Manager Sean Dyche echoed his captain’s words, as did several other football figures, including BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker. 

In addition to taking a knee before games, all Premier League players have worn the words Black Lives Matter on the back on their shirts and a logo on the sleeve to show support for the movement. 

BLM protests erupted worldwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis in the US on May 25. 

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism. 

A Burnley spokesman said: ‘Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.

‘We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.

‘The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind. 

‘We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.

‘We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.’  

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message 'White Lives Matter Burnley'

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’

Alan Elliott - pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court - is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park

Alan Elliott – pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates’ Court – is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park 

Burnley FC Police - a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club - said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley FC Police – a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club – said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt. 

MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘A plane flew over the Etihad stadium tonight with this banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. So depressing.’ 

Pundit and former England footballer Lineker added: ‘I’m sure @BurnleyOfficial will condemn this s***housery.’

Rachel Riley commented: ‘Anyone fancy a crowdfunder to get these idiots a tattoo to mark their brave and clever stunt. I reckon ‘Man City 5 – Burnley 0′ would be perfect.’ 

Comedian Omid Djalli said: ‘Brilliant Ben Mee being on it ASAP. The Black Lives Matter movement is everyone against racism and discrimination towards all minorities. 

‘Burnley FC have apologised for an idiotic minority who want a race war. Well done the Premier League for keeping on highlighting injustice.

‘If someone is chartering a plane to fly a banner like that over a football match, it proves definitively that there are racists out there literally with more money than sense.’ 

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was 'disappointed' by the provocative message

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was ‘disappointed’ by the provocative message 

In response to the distasteful stunt, other Burnley fans have started a Go Fund Me page raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which was set up in memory of the black teenager after he was killed in a racist attack in 1993. 

Sports commentator Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White Lives Matter – Burnley’. F***ing hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace.’

Players have been taking to their knees throughout the Premier League in a sign of support in the fight against inequality and injustice which was adopted by sports stars in 2016 after NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem.

Last night’s stunt comes after a plane towing a confederate flag flew over a NASCAR track and a noose was found in the garage of black driver Bubba Wallace at a race in Alabama on Sunday.

The shocking discovery came less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

Nascar announced the discovery on Sunday and said it would do everything possible to find who was responsible and ‘eliminate them from the sport.’    

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili 

Sam Lee tweeted: 'There's a plane flying over the Etihad that says 'White lives matter - Burnley'. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace'

Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White lives matter – Burnley’. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace’

No crime was committed when ‘White Lives Matter’ banner was flown over Ethiad stadium, police say 


Police investigating a Burnley football fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium say no crime was committed. 

Jake Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL and been pictured with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for last night’s stunt and wrote on Facebook: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

Lancashire Police today confirmed that Mr Hepple, from Colne, who was being investigated for a racially aggravated public order offence related to the message, had not been found to have committed a criminal offence. 

Ch Supt Russ Procter said: ‘Today Lancashire Constabulary has been in liaison with Greater Manchester Police, the Aviation Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service regards the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner that was flown over the Etihad Stadium last night.

‘After assessing all the information available surrounding this incident we have concluded that there are no criminal offences that have been disclosed at this time. We will continue to work with our partners at the football club and within the local authority.’

Despite this Hepple’s employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were looking into his conduct and would announce any action soon.

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Sources close to the police investigation told The Telegraph that those involved could be quizzed over a racially aggravated public order offence related to the message, rather than the flight itself. 

It came as Blackpool Airport – which was used by the plane – announced it had suspended all banner towing operations ‘with immediate effect’ and said it ‘did not condone’ the message. 

Scroll down for video.  

A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester yesterday evening

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Mr Hepple's girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media

Mr Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media 

Jake Hepple posted an image of the plane on Facebook yesterday and wrote: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!

What could the banner organisers be charged with? 

Lancashire Police say they are investigating last nights incident to see if any criminal charges could be brought, but refused to give details. 

However, previous cases suggest there are several avenues if the authorities were to consider charges, including: 

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – A person is guilty of an offence if they ‘use threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’ or ‘displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive].’

Air Navigation Order 2009 – This makes it an offence to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft. It is not clear if this happened in last night’s incident.   

‘It’s now apparently racist to say White Lives Matter, the day after three white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the TV is Black Lives Matter after George Floyd got murdered. What a mad world we live in.’  

Other members of the Suicide Squad – a group of hooligan Burnley fans – are thought to have spent the past week crowdfunding for the banner and flyover. 

Last night’s stunt led to outrage and has been widely condemned, with Burnley captain Ben Mee saying he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’.

Speaking after the match, which his side lost 5-0, he noted that the Burnley players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned. 

The company that operated the plane, Air Ads, is based in Stockport and flies from Blackpool Airport. However, it emerged this afternoon that the airport had suspended flights operated by the company pending an investigation. 

One of its directors, Alan Elliott, was fined £2,000 in 2017 for flying 400ft from Goodison Park after being paid by an Everton fan to display a sign emblazoned with ‘Thank you Mr Kenwright’ in support of the club chairman. 

Under the Air Navigation Order 2009, aircraft are not allowed to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft within a 600-yard radius of the highest obstacle. 

MailOnline has contacted the Civil Aviation Authority to ask if the same offence was committed last night.

A former pilot at Blackpool Airport claimed they knew the pilot at Air Ads and confirmed the firm used to be run by Alan Elliot, who died a few weeks ago.

The pilot, who did not wish to be named, told Sky News that the banners are made to order and the flights cost around £700, with pilots taking around £100 per flight.

He added: ‘We would assume whoever paid for the banner would get done for it.’

Chequered history of air banner firm who provided plane for ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt

The Cessna C-182 was chartered from Air Ads Ltd, which is based at Blackpool Airport. The small aircraft was spotted on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 leaving the seaside resort and flying over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, shortly after players and support staff had held a minute’s silence for Covid-19 victims and went down on one knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt

One pilot from Air Ads Ltd, Alan Elliott, from Bolton, was prosecuted in 2017 having flown a banner over Goodison Park, Everton.

The pilot was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 prosecution costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after he flew within 400 feet of the stadium – endangering the public and his aircraft.

Mr Elliot had been paid £800 to fly the banner. Though he should not have been below 1,000ft in a congested area such as a city centre or within a radius of 600 yards of the highest obstacle.

The rules are designed to allow a small aircraft the chance to glide to safety if its engine fails.

Mr Elliott died on May 3, according to his family.

In July 2010 the company wrote off an aircraft which crashed into a hangar while refuelling in Compton Abbas Airfield, Dorset.

According to an air accident report by the Civil Aviation Authority, when the aircraft restarted, it lurched forward and crashed into the hangar before the pilot was able to react. 

Air Ads was involved in a crash on July 18, 2010, when the pilot wrote off a plane by mistakenly revving up the engine while taxiing on the runway and slammed into a hangar. 

The pilot, who was not named in an incident report, escaped uninjured. 

Air Ads Ltd has been involved in several other high-profile publicity stunts, including flying a banner over Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium reading ‘Go Clarets’ for a local newspaper and advertising a marriage proposal. 

Alan Elliott, who was involved in the Everton incident, died on May 3 this year, according to his family. His son, Alan Mark Elliott, is still listed as a director. MailOnline has contacted the company for comment. 

Bob Stinger, one of the pilots associated with Air Ads, denied being at the controls last night but declined to comment further. 

Burnley captain Ben Mee said he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’ of the stunt, and revealed that his players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned.

‘I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium,’ he said. ‘It is not what we are about. 

‘They have missed what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about.

‘I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game. 

‘It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.’ 

Mr Hepple’s employer, Paradigm Precision in Burnley, said today: ‘We are aware of the incident that took place and are currently investigating the conduct of our employee. Once we have completed our enquiries, we will release a full statement.’ 

Chief Supt Russ Procter, from Lancashire Police, said: ‘We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.

‘We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority.’  

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

‘I condemn the actions of those responsible for the banner flown over the Etihad Stadium yesterday evening.

‘We will always support the police and other relevant authorities to investigate any reports of inappropriate or illegal activities, providing whatever assistance we can.’ 

Blackpool Airport said: ‘The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.

‘Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator’s discretion. 

‘Following an emergency review this morning, Blackpool Airport will suspend all banner towing operations at the airport with immediate effect and we would suggest that other airports should also consider this approach in light of what has happened at Blackpool.’  

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was 'like a foreign country' before adding in a follow-up post, 'They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s'

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done 

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Last night's aerial display reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League 

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

Ben Mee, who was born is Sale, said Burnley tried to halt the plans once they became aware of what was to follow.

Fan behind plane posted racist ‘P***’ messages online while bosses suspend his girlfriend from beauty job after racist tweets

The Burnley fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium shared a series of racist slurs on social media, it emerged today, as his girlfriend was suspended from her beauty job for her own bigoted posts. 

Jake Hepple ranted about ‘P***s’ while his partner, Megan Rambadt, tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’. 

Ms Rambadt's tweet about Burnley being like a 'foreign country' that 'needs sorting'

Ms Rambadt’s tweet about Burnley being like a ‘foreign country’ that ‘needs sorting’ 

Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL on Facebook and appeared in a photo with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for the stunt last night, writing: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter.

Lancashire Police today confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were investigating his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

It came as Solace Foot Health and Reflexology, which employs Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, condemned ‘abhorrently racist’ comments she had posted on social media and said they would ‘deal with the situation internally’.  

‘As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen,’ he added. ‘The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again.’

Manager Sean Dyche echoed his captain’s words, as did several other football figures, including BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker. 

In addition to taking a knee before games, all Premier League players have worn the words Black Lives Matter on the back on their shirts and a logo on the sleeve to show support for the movement. 

BLM protests erupted worldwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis in the US on May 25. 

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism. 

A Burnley spokesman said: ‘Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.

‘We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.

‘The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind. 

‘We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.

‘We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.’  

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message 'White Lives Matter Burnley'

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’

Alan Elliott - pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court - is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park

Alan Elliott – pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates’ Court – is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park 

Burnley FC Police - a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club - said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley FC Police – a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club – said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt. 

MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘A plane flew over the Etihad stadium tonight with this banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. So depressing.’ 

Pundit and former England footballer Lineker added: ‘I’m sure @BurnleyOfficial will condemn this s***housery.’

Rachel Riley commented: ‘Anyone fancy a crowdfunder to get these idiots a tattoo to mark their brave and clever stunt. I reckon ‘Man City 5 – Burnley 0′ would be perfect.’ 

Comedian Omid Djalli said: ‘Brilliant Ben Mee being on it ASAP. The Black Lives Matter movement is everyone against racism and discrimination towards all minorities. 

‘Burnley FC have apologised for an idiotic minority who want a race war. Well done the Premier League for keeping on highlighting injustice.

‘If someone is chartering a plane to fly a banner like that over a football match, it proves definitively that there are racists out there literally with more money than sense.’ 

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was 'disappointed' by the provocative message

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was ‘disappointed’ by the provocative message 

In response to the distasteful stunt, other Burnley fans have started a Go Fund Me page raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which was set up in memory of the black teenager after he was killed in a racist attack in 1993. 

Sports commentator Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White Lives Matter – Burnley’. F***ing hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace.’

Players have been taking to their knees throughout the Premier League in a sign of support in the fight against inequality and injustice which was adopted by sports stars in 2016 after NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem.

Last night’s stunt comes after a plane towing a confederate flag flew over a NASCAR track and a noose was found in the garage of black driver Bubba Wallace at a race in Alabama on Sunday.

The shocking discovery came less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

Nascar announced the discovery on Sunday and said it would do everything possible to find who was responsible and ‘eliminate them from the sport.’    

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili 

Sam Lee tweeted: 'There's a plane flying over the Etihad that says 'White lives matter - Burnley'. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace'

Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White lives matter – Burnley’. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace’

Burnley vow to hand LIFETIME bans to the fans responsible for flying ‘white lives matter’ banner


Burnley vow to hand LIFETIME bans to the fans responsible for flying ‘white lives matter’ banner over Man City’s stadium as chairman Mike Garlick says club will ‘root out these racists and make sure justice is done’

  • Burnley say they will ban fans over a banner that flew over the Etihad on Monday 
  • A plane flew the words ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ prior to the Man City game 
  • The club insist they are ‘opposed to any form of discrimination of any kind’
  • Chairman Mike Garlick said Burnley ‘deplores’ the incident and promised justice 

Burnley have insisted they will give out lifetime bans to any supporters found to be involved with the flying of a ‘white lives matter’ before their game at Manchester City on Monday night.

After Burnley and City players took a knee prior to kick off in support of the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the world and sport, the banner in question was spotted above the Etihad, reading: ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’.

It has caused outraged among the football community with many players and pundits slamming the stunt, and now Burnley have released a statement promising to come down hard on any fans who were responsible. 

Burnley have promised to issue lifetime bans to any supporters involved in flying a banner that read ‘White Lives Matter’ before their game with Manchester City on Monday

‘Burnley Football Club is opposed to any form of racism and discrimination of any kind,’ the club said.

‘As custodians of the club, we stand firmly behind the statement condemning the message flown over the Etihad Stadium on Monday night and are fully in support of the words of club captain Ben Mee, delivered after the match.

‘Black Lives Matter is a movement supported by all players in the Premier League and the league itself.

The club said it stands 'firmly behind' Black Lives Matter and opposes all forms of racism

The club said it stands ‘firmly behind’ Black Lives Matter and opposes all forms of racism

‘While we naturally consider that all lives matter, let us be clear that the Black Lives Matter movement aims to overcome years of racial inequality against the BAME community and promote a greater fairness for all.

‘We at Burnley therefore stand firmly behind it and oppose anything that may appear to undermine or challenge such a positive message.’

Burnley added that it has a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on any form of discrimination at Turf Moor and that anyone found guilty of such behaviour would be banned for life, with the same punishment handed to those found guilty of the banner.

‘The club operates a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination of any form at Turf Moor and is increasingly issuing lifetime bans for supporters that incite racism and hatred.

‘This punishment will also be meted out to those responsible for Monday’s regrettable incident.’

Chairman Mike Garlick insists the club 'deplores' the incident and will 'root out' the culprits

Chairman Mike Garlick insists the club ‘deplores’ the incident and will ‘root out’ the culprits

Club chief Mike Garlick admitted he ‘wasn’t proud to be Burnley chairman’ following the incident and said they would ‘root out these racists’. 

‘We will root out these racists and I am sure they will be dealt with in due course.

‘We will do whatever we can to make sure justice is done against these people.

‘Let’s be clear. The plane didn’t fly in our name. It has absolutely nothing to do with Burnley Football Club and we absolutely deplore it.

Captain Ben Mee said he was 'ashamed' as he slammed the behaviour of those responsible

Captain Ben Mee said he was ‘ashamed’ as he slammed the behaviour of those responsible

‘But we have to talk about it. We cannot and will not sweep it under the carpet.

‘I was at the game and I have been chairman/co-chairman for eight years. I have always been proud to be in that position, but I can tell you that I wasn’t proud to be Burnley chairman last night.’

Also condemning the banner was club captain Ben Mee, who said those involved ‘need to come into the 21st century’ and adding that he was ‘ashamed’, while manager Sean Dyche said it was ‘clearly unacceptable’. 

Police launch investigation into Burnley White Lives Matter fan


Police today launched an investigation into a Burnley football fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium as he faced being charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.    

Jake Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL and been pictured with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for last night’s stunt and wrote on Facebook: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

Lancashire Police today confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were looking into his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Sources close to the police investigation told The Telegraph that those involved could be quizzed over a racially aggravated public order offence related to the message, rather than the flight itself.   

Scroll down for video.  

A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester yesterday evening

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Mr Hepple's girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media

Mr Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media 

What could the banner organisers be charged with? 

Lancashire Police say they are investigating last nights incident to see if any criminal charges could be brought, but refused to give details. 

However, previous cases suggest there are several avenues if the authorities were to consider charges, including: 

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 – A person is guilty of an offence if they ‘use threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’ or ‘displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive].’

Air Navigation Order 2009 – This makes it an offence to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft. It is not clear if this happened in last night’s incident.   

Jake Hepple posted an image of the plane on Facebook yesterday and wrote: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!

‘It’s now apparently racist to say White Lives Matter, the day after three white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the TV is Black Lives Matter after George Floyd got murdered. What a mad world we live in.’  

Other members of the Suicide Squad – a group of hooligan Burnley fans – are thought to have spent the past week crowdfunding for the banner and flyover. 

Last night’s stunt led to outrage and has been widely condemned, with Burnley captain Ben Mee saying he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’.

Speaking after the match, which his side lost 5-0, he noted that the Burnley players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned. 

The company that operated the plane, Air Ads, is based in Stockport and flies from Blackpool Airport. 

One of its directors, Alan Elliott, was fined £2,000 in 2017 for flying 400ft from Goodison Park after being paid by an Everton fan to display a sign emblazoned with ‘Thank you Mr Kenwright’ in support of the club chairman. 

Under the Air Navigation Order 2009, aircraft are not allowed to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft within a 600-yard radius of the highest obstacle. 

MailOnline has contacted the Civil Aviation Authority to ask if the same offence was committed last night. 

Air Ads was involved in a crash on July 18, 2010, when the pilot wrote off a plane by mistakenly revving up the engine while taxiing on the runway and slammed into a hangar. 

Chequered history of air banner firm who provided plane for ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt

The Cessna C-182 was chartered from Air Ads Ltd, which is based at Blackpool Airport. The small aircraft was spotted on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 leaving the seaside resort and flying over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, shortly after players and support staff had held a minute’s silence for Covid-19 victims and went down on one knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt

One pilot from Air Ads Ltd, Alan Elliott, from Bolton, was prosecuted in 2017 having flown a banner over Goodison Park, Everton.

The pilot was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 prosecution costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after he flew within 400 feet of the stadium – endangering the public and his aircraft.

Mr Elliot had been paid £800 to fly the banner. Though he should not have been below 1,000ft in a congested area such as a city centre or within a radius of 600 yards of the highest obstacle.

The rules are designed to allow a small aircraft the chance to glide to safety if its engine fails.

Mr Elliott died on May 3, according to his family.

In July 2010 the company wrote off an aircraft which crashed into a hangar while refuelling in Compton Abbas Airfield, Dorset.

According to an air accident report by the Civil Aviation Authority, when the aircraft restarted, it lurched forward and crashed into the hangar before the pilot was able to react. 

The pilot, who was not named in an incident report, escaped uninjured. 

Air Ads Ltd has been involved in several other high-profile publicity stunts, including flying a banner over Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium reading ‘Go Clarets’ for a local newspaper and advertising a marriage proposal. 

Alan Elliott, who was involved in the Everton incident, died on May 3 this year, according to his family. His son, Alan Mark Elliott, is still listed as a director. MailOnline has contacted the company for comment. 

Bob Stinger, one of the pilots associated with Air Ads, denied being at the controls last night but declined to comment further. 

Burnley captain Ben Mee said he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’ of the stunt, and revealed that his players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned.

‘I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium,’ he said. ‘It is not what we are about. 

‘They have missed what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about.

‘I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game. 

‘It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.’ 

Mr Hepple’s employer, Paradigm Precision in Burnley, said today: ‘We are aware of the incident that took place and are currently investigating the conduct of our employee. Once we have completed our enquiries, we will release a full statement.’ 

Chief Supt Russ Procter, from Lancashire Police, said: ‘We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.

‘We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority.’  

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was 'like a foreign country' before adding in a follow-up post, 'They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s'

Mr Hepple with his partner, Megan Rambadt, who tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done

Mr Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done 

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Last night's aerial display reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League 

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

Ben Mee, who was born is Sale, said Burnley tried to halt the plans once they became aware of what was to follow.

Fan behind plane posted racist ‘P***’ messages online while bosses suspend his girlfriend from beauty job after racist tweets

The Burnley fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium shared a series of racist slurs on social media, it emerged today, as his girlfriend was suspended from her beauty job for her own bigoted posts. 

Jake Hepple ranted about ‘P***s’ while his partner, Megan Rambadt, tweeted that her town was ‘like a foreign country’ before adding in a follow-up post, ‘They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin b******s’. 

Ms Rambadt's tweet about Burnley being like a 'foreign country' that 'needs sorting'

Ms Rambadt’s tweet about Burnley being like a ‘foreign country’ that ‘needs sorting’ 

Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL on Facebook and appeared in a photo with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for the stunt last night, writing: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter.

Lancashire Police today confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were investigating his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

It came as Solace Foot Health and Reflexology, which employs Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, condemned ‘abhorrently racist’ comments she had posted on social media and said they would ‘deal with the situation internally’.  

‘As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen,’ he added. ‘The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again.’

Manager Sean Dyche echoed his captain’s words, as did several other football figures, including BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker. 

In addition to taking a knee before games, all Premier League players have worn the words Black Lives Matter on the back on their shirts and a logo on the sleeve to show support for the movement. 

BLM protests erupted worldwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis in the US on May 25. 

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism. 

A Burnley spokesman said: ‘Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.

‘We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.

‘The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind. 

‘We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.

‘We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.’  

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message 'White Lives Matter Burnley'

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’

Alan Elliott - pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court - is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park

Alan Elliott – pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates’ Court – is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park 

Burnley FC Police - a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club - said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley FC Police – a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club – said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt. 

MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘A plane flew over the Etihad stadium tonight with this banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. So depressing.’ 

Pundit and former England footballer Lineker added: ‘I’m sure @BurnleyOfficial will condemn this s***housery.’

Rachel Riley commented: ‘Anyone fancy a crowdfunder to get these idiots a tattoo to mark their brave and clever stunt. I reckon ‘Man City 5 – Burnley 0′ would be perfect.’ 

Comedian Omid Djalli said: ‘Brilliant Ben Mee being on it ASAP. The Black Lives Matter movement is everyone against racism and discrimination towards all minorities. 

‘Burnley FC have apologised for an idiotic minority who want a race war. Well done the Premier League for keeping on highlighting injustice.

‘If someone is chartering a plane to fly a banner like that over a football match, it proves definitively that there are racists out there literally with more money than sense.’ 

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was 'disappointed' by the provocative message

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was ‘disappointed’ by the provocative message 

In response to the distasteful stunt, other Burnley fans have started a Go Fund Me page raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which was set up in memory of the black teenager after he was killed in a racist attack in 1993. 

Sports commentator Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White Lives Matter – Burnley’. F***ing hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace.’

Players have been taking to their knees throughout the Premier League in a sign of support in the fight against inequality and injustice which was adopted by sports stars in 2016 after NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem.

Last night’s stunt comes after a plane towing a confederate flag flew over a NASCAR track and a noose was found in the garage of black driver Bubba Wallace at a race in Alabama on Sunday.

The shocking discovery came less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

Nascar announced the discovery on Sunday and said it would do everything possible to find who was responsible and ‘eliminate them from the sport.’    

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili 

Sam Lee tweeted: 'There's a plane flying over the Etihad that says 'White lives matter - Burnley'. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace'

Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White lives matter – Burnley’. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace’

Police launch investigation into Burnley White Lives Matter fan


Police today launched an investigation into a Burnley football fan who chartered a plane and flew a White Lives Matter banner above the Etihad stadium as he faced being charged with a racially-aggravated public order offence.    

Jake Hepple, who has posted in support of the EDL and been pictured with its former leader, Tommy Robinson, claimed responsibility for last night’s stunt and wrote on Facebook: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!’

Lancashire Police today confirmed it was investigating Mr Hepple, from Colne, as his employer, an engineering company in Burnley called Paradigm Precision, said they were investigating his conduct and would announce any action soon. 

The Suicide Squad, a group of far-right Burnley fans, are believed to have crowdfunded the flight, which flew over the stadium just after players had taken the knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Sources close to the police investigation told The Telegraph that those involved could be quizzed over a racially-aggravated public order offence related to the message, rather than the flight itself.   

Scroll down for video.  

A plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium ahead of the team’s match with Manchester yesterday evening

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Jake Hepple (pictured left with English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson) has claimed responsibility for the stunt

Mr Hepple's girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media

Mr Hepple’s girlfriend, Megan Rambadt, was today suspended by her employer after she posted racist comments on social media 

Jake Hepple posted an image of the plane on Facebook yesterday and wrote: ‘I’d like to take this time to apologise… to absolutely f***ing nobody!

‘It’s now apparently racist to say White Lives Matter, the day after three white people got murdered in a park in Reading, but all we’ve seen on the TV is Black Lives Matter after George Floyd got murdered. What a mad world we live in.’  

Other members of the Suicide Squad – a group of hooligan Burnley fans – are thought to have spent the past week crowdfunding for the banner and flyover. 

Chequered history of air banner firm who provided plane for ‘White Lives Matter’ stunt

The Cessna C-182 was chartered from Air Ads Ltd, which is based at Blackpool Airport. The small aircraft was spotted on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 leaving the seaside resort and flying over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, shortly after players and support staff had held a minute’s silence for Covid-19 victims and went down on one knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt

Alan Elliott is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt

One pilot from Air Ads Ltd, Alan Elliott, from Bolton, was prosecuted in 2017 having flown a banner over Goodison Park, Everton.

The pilot was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 prosecution costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after he flew within 400 feet of the stadium – endangering the public and his aircraft.

Mr Elliot had been paid £800 to fly the banner. Though he should not have been below 1,000ft in a congested area such as a city centre or within a radius of 600 yards of the highest obstacle.

The rules are designed to allow a small aircraft the chance to glide to safety if its engine fails.

Mr Elliott died on May 3, according to his family.

In July 2010 the company wrote off an aircraft which crashed into a hangar while refuelling in Compton Abbas Airfield, Dorset.

According to an air accident report by the Civil Aviation Authority, when the aircraft restarted, it lurched forward and crashed into the hangar before the pilot was able to react. 

Last night’s stunt led to outrage and has been widely condemned, with Burnley captain Ben Mee saying he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’.

Speaking after the match, which his side lost 5-0, he noted that the Burnley players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned. 

The company that operated the plane, Air Ads, is based in Stockport and flies from Blackpool Airport. 

One of its directors, Alan Elliott, was fined £2,000 in 2017 for flying 400ft from Goodison Park after being paid by an Everton fan to display a sign emblazoned with ‘Thank you Mr Kenwright’ in support of the club chairman. 

Under the Air Navigation Order 2009, aircraft are not allowed to fly over a congested area at a height lower than 1,000ft within a 600-yard radius of the highest obstacle. 

MailOnline has contacted the Civil Aviation Authority to ask if the same offence was committed last night. 

Air Ads was involved in a crash on July 18, 2010, when the pilot wrote off a plane by mistakenly revving up the engine while taxiing on the runway and slammed into a hangar. The pilot, who was not named in an incident report, escaped uninjured. 

Air Ads Ltd has been involved in several other high-profile publicity stunts, including flying a banner over Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium reading ‘Go Clarets’ for a local newspaper and advertising a marriage proposal. 

Alan Elliott, who was involved in the Everton incident, died on May 3 this year, according to his family. His son, Alan Mark Elliott, is still listed as a director. MailOnline has contacted the company for comment. 

Bob Stinger, one of the pilots associated with Air Ads, denied being at the controls last night but declined to comment further. 

Burnley captain Ben Mee said he was ‘shamed and embarrassed’ of the stunt, and revealed that his players had heard ‘whispers’ that something may have been planned.

‘I am ashamed and embarrassed that a small number of our fans have decided to fly that around the stadium,’ he said. ‘It is not what we are about. 

‘They have missed what we are trying to achieve. These people need to come into the 21st century and educate themselves. They don’t represent what we are about, the club is about, the players are about and the majority of fans are about.

‘I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want to associate it with my club. I don’t want to see this in the game. 

‘It is not right. We totally condemn it. These people can learn and be taught what Black Lives Matter is trying to achieve.’ 

Mr Hepple’s employer, Paradigm Precision in Burnley, said today: ‘We are aware of the incident that took place and are currently investigating the conduct of our employee. Once we have completed our enquiries, we will release a full statement.’ 

Chief Supt Russ Procter, from Lancashire Police, said: ‘We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.

‘We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority.’ 

Jake Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done

Jake Hepple (pictured) said in a statement to Facebook that he did not want to apologise for what he had done 

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

The private plane crossed the sky above the stadium just moments after both Burnley and Manchester players took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement

Last night's aerial display reading 'White Lives Matter Burnley' appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League

In 2010, Hepple posted this flag showing support for the far-right English Defence League 

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

In 2013, the EDL supporter was pictured on Facebook holding a finger to his lip to mimic a moustache

Ben Mee, who was born is Sale, said Burnley tried to halt the plans once they became aware of what was to follow.

‘As we were coming out we heard some whispers that it was going to happen,’ he added. ‘The club tried to stop it. I’ve heard it is a small number that have arranged this and I hope it doesn’t happen again.’

Manager Sean Dyche echoed his captain’s words, as did several other football figures, including BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker. 

In addition to taking a knee before games, all Premier League players have worn the words Black Lives Matter on the back on their shirts and a logo on the sleeve to show support for the movement. 

BLM protests erupted worldwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis in the US on May 25. 

Last night’s aerial display reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ appeared to mock the movement, which is fighting against racism.  

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Jake Hepple, a Burnley local, has claimed responsibility for the stunt sharing a video of the plane to his Facebook along with a refusal to apologise

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message 'White Lives Matter Burnley'

Mr Hepple shared photos and a video to Facebook of the plane carrying the message ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’

Alan Elliott - pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court - is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night's stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park

Alan Elliott – pictured left outside Liverpool Magistrates’ Court – is listed as a director of Air Ads Ltd, which provided the plane for last night’s stunt. He was prosecuted pin 2017 for flying a plane too low over Goodison Park 

Burnley FC Police - a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club - said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

Burnley FC Police – a division of Lancashire Police that deals with the football club – said they were aware who was involved in the incident, as were Burnley FC

A Burnley spokesman said: ‘Burnley Football Club strongly condemns the actions of those responsible for the aircraft and offensive banner that flew over The Etihad Stadium on Monday evening.

‘We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor. This, in no way, represents what Burnley Football Club stands for and we will work fully with the authorities to identify those responsible and issue lifetime bans.

‘The club has a proud record of working with all genders, religions and faiths through its award-winning Community scheme, and stands against racism of any kind. 

‘We are fully behind the Premier League’s Black Lives Matter initiative and, in line with all other Premier League games undertaken since Project Restart, our players and football staff willingly took the knee at kick-off at Manchester City.

‘We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.’ 

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Burnley manager Sean Dyche and staff take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium yesterday

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City takes a knee in support of Black Lives Matter

Referee Andre Marriner kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match between Manchester City and Burnley FC at Etihad Stadium on June 22, 2020

Referee Andre Marriner (right) and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (left) kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before last night’s match 

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was 'disappointed' by the provocative message

Former Burnley captain Frank Sinclair said he was ‘disappointed’ by the provocative message 

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt. 

MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘A plane flew over the Etihad stadium tonight with this banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. So depressing.’ 

Pundit and former England footballer Lineker added: ‘I’m sure @BurnleyOfficial will condemn this s***housery.’

Rachel Riley commented: ‘Anyone fancy a crowdfunder to get these idiots a tattoo to mark their brave and clever stunt. I reckon ‘Man City 5 – Burnley 0′ would be perfect.’ 

Comedian Omid Djalli said: ‘Brilliant Ben Mee being on it ASAP. The Black Lives Matter movement is everyone against racism and discrimination towards all minorities. 

‘Burnley FC have apologised for an idiotic minority who want a race war. Well done the Premier League for keeping on highlighting injustice.

‘If someone is chartering a plane to fly a banner like that over a football match, it proves definitively that there are racists out there literally with more money than sense.’ 

In response to the distasteful stunt, other Burnley fans have started a Go Fund Me page raising money for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which was set up in memory of the black teenager after he was killed in a racist attack in 1993.  

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili

Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger at the stunt, including the comedian Omid Djalili 

Sports commentator Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White Lives Matter – Burnley’. F***ing hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace.’

Players have been taking to their knees throughout the Premier League in a sign of support in the fight against inequality and injustice which was adopted by sports stars in 2016 after NFL player Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem.

Last night’s stunt comes after a plane towing a confederate flag flew over a NASCAR track and a noose was found in the garage of black driver Bubba Wallace at a race in Alabama on Sunday.

The shocking discovery came less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

Nascar announced the discovery on Sunday and said it would do everything possible to find who was responsible and ‘eliminate them from the sport.’ 

Former Premier League striker Darren Bent tweeted in response to the plane's message

Former Premier League striker Darren Bent tweeted in response to the plane’s message

Sam Lee tweeted: 'There's a plane flying over the Etihad that says 'White lives matter - Burnley'. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace'

Sam Lee tweeted: ‘There’s a plane flying over the Etihad that says ‘White lives matter – Burnley’. F****** hell, what an absolute embarrassment. Absolute disgrace’

Liverpool’s title run-in, Arsenal vs Spurs and Chelsea games – the Premier League’s ‘high risk’ ties


Police call for SIX ‘high risk’ Premier League games to be moved to neutral venues over crowd fears… with Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Newcastle all facing high-profile switches

  • Police have identified six ‘high risk’ PL games that could be at neutral venues
  • There are concerns fans could gather near grounds and breach lockdown rules 
  • Liverpool’s matches are of particular concern given they will win the title soon
  • There is concern about two Newcastle games amid their impending takeover 

Police have identified six fixtures of particular concern which will be staged at neutral venues when the Premier League returns, Sportsmail can reveal.

Three games involving Liverpool will be moved to a neutral venue, including the Merseyside derby and their likely title-winning game, though there is no possibility of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti’s sides meeting in Manchester.

There is also a concern about two Newcastle games.

The full list of games police hold concerns over are: Manchester City v Liverpool, Manchester City v Newcastle, Manchester United v Sheffield United, Newcastle v Liverpool, Everton v Liverpool and the game which takes Liverpool to the title.

At yesterday’s Premier League meeting 12 games were mentioned as potentially being moved to neutral venues – including a series of London derbies, as revealed by Sportsmail. The clubs involved still expect these matches to be moved, too.

Three of Liverpool’s games will be moved to a neutral venue when the Premier League returns

THE SIX GAMES POLICE FEAR MOST

Manchester City v Liverpool

Manchester City v Newcastle

Manchester United v Sheffield United

Newcastle v Liverpool

Everton v Liverpool

Liverpool’s title-winning game 

Other games that could be moved include: 

While there had been an initial plan to play all matches at neutral grounds, that was dismissed out of hand but other games could now be switched – including Liverpool’s remaining matches at Anfield before they inevitably take the title.

The six fixtures of concerns have been identified after individual forces were asked which games concerned them.

As yet, there are no fixtures relating to relegation-threatened sides, which could avoid the row over neutral venues which saw the bottom six insist that they wanted to retain home advantage.

But Sportsmail understands that additional relegation fixtures could be added if that aspect of the resumed season creates crunch matches in which large numbers are likely to gather. 

There is no possibility of the Merseyside derby taking place just down the road in Manchester

There is no possibility of the Merseyside derby taking place just down the road in Manchester

Newcastle's huge fan base is a concern, with the possible Saudi takeover adding excitement

Newcastle’s huge fan base is a concern, with the possible Saudi takeover adding excitement

It has not yet been decided where neutral games will be staged. Some of Britain’s 43 police force areas have said they are willing to stage them. Some have indicated they are not.

Discussions on that will now take place between the Premier League and senior football police officers, who today praised the league for their cooperative and positive contribution to security discussions.

Greater Manchester Police, whose chief constable expressed concerns about some fixtures two weeks ago, have identified three fixtures in their force area as ones they prefer to be held at neutral venues.

The United v Sheffield United match is unexpected and could be a consequence of the two cities’ relative proximity and this being the Blades’ first season back in the top flight. 

Newcastle’s huge fan base clearly concerns officers, with the possible Saudi takeover at St James Park heightening the air of expectation.

Liverpool need just two more wins to capture the Premier League and it could come as early as the opening weekend, if Manchester City lose to Arsenal and they beat Everton. 

The likes of Leeds and West Brom in the Championship could also be asked to play at neutral venues as both are edging towards promotion. 

Man United v Sheffield United could be a consequence of the two cities' relative proximity

Man United v Sheffield United could be a consequence of the two cities’ relative proximity

Manchester City's home match against Liverpool could be another switched to a neutral venue

Manchester City’s home match against Liverpool could be another switched to a neutral venue

A plan is now in place for the Premier League season to be concluded by July 25, with 92 games to be held in 39 days.

Premier League chief Richard Masters said in a statement on Thursday: He said: ‘We have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday, June 17. 

‘But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.

‘Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches. 

‘The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. 

‘It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.’ 


Liverpool’s title run-in, Arsenal vs Spurs and Chelsea games – the Premier League’s ‘high risk’ ties


BREAKING NEWS: Police call for SIX ‘high risk’ Premier League games to be moved to neutral venues over crowd fears… with Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea and Newcastle all facing high-profile switches

  • Police have identified six ‘high risk’ PL games that could be at neutral venues
  • There are concerns fans could gather near grounds and breach lockdown rules 
  • Liverpool’s matches are of particular concern given they will win the title soon
  • There is concern about two Newcastle games amid their impending takeover 

Police have identified six fixtures of particular concern which will be staged at neutral venues when the Premier League returns, Sportsmail can reveal.

Three games involving Liverpool will be moved to a neutral venue, including the Merseyside derby and their likely title-winning game, though there is no possibility of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti’s sides meeting in Manchester.

There is also a concern about two Newcastle games.

The full list of games police hold concerns over are: Manchester City v Liverpool, Manchester City v Newcastle, Manchester United v Sheffield United, Newcastle v Liverpool, Everton v Liverpool and the game which takes Liverpool to the title.

Three of Liverpool’s games will be moved to a neutral venue when the Premier League returns

THE SIX GAMES POLICE FEAR MOST

Manchester City v Liverpool

Manchester City v Newcastle

Manchester United v Sheffield United

Newcastle v Liverpool

Everton v Liverpool

Liverpool’s title-winning game 

On Thursday, the division announced that the action would resume on June 17 with the two games clubs have in-hand before a full round of fixtures, involving all 20 sides, over the weekend of June 20. 

While there had been an initial plan to play all matches at neutral grounds, that was dismissed out of hand but other games could now be switched – including Liverpool’s remaining matches at Anfield before they inevitably take the title.

The six fixtures of concerns have been identified after individual forces were asked which games concerned them.

As yet, there are no fixtures relating to relegation-threatened sides, which could avoid the row over neutral venues which saw the bottom six insist that they wanted to retain home advantage.

But Sportsmail understands that additional relegation fixtures could be added if that aspect of the resumed season creates crunch matches in which large numbers are likely to gather.

The Times have reported that there are 12 ‘high risk’ matches that discussions are being held over.

There is no possibility of the Merseyside derby taking place just down the road in Manchester

There is no possibility of the Merseyside derby taking place just down the road in Manchester

Newcastle's huge fan base is a concern, with the possible Saudi takeover adding excitement

Newcastle’s huge fan base is a concern, with the possible Saudi takeover adding excitement

It has not yet been decided where neutral games will be staged. Some of Britain’s 43 police force areas have said they are willing to stage them. Some have indicated they are not.

Discussions on that will now take place between the Premier League and senior football police officers, who today praised the league for their cooperative and positive contribution to security discussions.

Greater Manchester Police, whose chief constable expressed concerns about some fixtures two weeks ago, have identified three fixtures in their force area as ones they prefer to be held at neutral venues.

The United v Sheffield United match is unexpected and could be a consequence of the two cities’ relative proximity and this being the Blades’ first season back in the top flight. 

Newcastle’s huge fan base clearly concerns officers, with the possible Saudi takeover at St James Park heightening the air of expectation.

Liverpool need just two more wins to capture the Premier League and it could come as early as the opening weekend, if Manchester City lose to Arsenal and they beat Everton. 

The likes of Leeds and West Brom in the Championship could also be asked to play at neutral venues as both are edging towards promotion. 

Man United v Sheffield United could be a consequence of the two cities' relative proximity

Man United v Sheffield United could be a consequence of the two cities’ relative proximity

Manchester City's home match against Liverpool could be another switched to a neutral venue

Manchester City’s home match against Liverpool could be another switched to a neutral venue

A plan is now in place for the Premier League season to be concluded by July 25, with 92 games to be held in 39 days.

Premier League chief Richard Masters said in a statement on Thursday: He said: ‘We have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday, June 17. 

‘But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.

‘Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches. 

‘The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. 

‘It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.’