A pensioner who shouted ‘You’re a black c***’ at England star Raheem Sterling has been banned from going to matches for three years.
Kevin O’Brien, 61, got drunk and shouted racist abuse from the stands at Wembley Stadium during the Carabao cup final between Manchester City and Aston Villa on March 1.
The lifelong Aston Villa fan admitted the racially aggravated harassment charge.
Wearing a pale-blue shirt, black glasses and denim jeans, he asked bench chair Yuksel Mehmet to sentence him today at Willesden Magistrates’ Court – 81 miles from his home in Redditch, Worcestershire.
James Crawley, from the police’s central football unit, told O’Brien: ‘Given the nature of the incident I have a three-year football ban for you.’
Prosecutor Katie Reiss then told the court: ‘This incident occurred on March 1 at the Carabao cup final between Manchester City and Aston Villa.
‘There is a witness who was sat in seat 125 watching the game and the defendant was sitting directly behind them.
‘The witness heard the defendant shout abuse at the field such as ‘Sterling, you’re a black c***’ in an angry manner.
‘This was said after an incident on the field between him and another player.
‘It’s not believed Raheem Sterling heard the comment. The witness said he was disgusted and angry at the comment.
‘He was arrested and interviewed. He told police: ‘I may have called him a black bugger, but that’s about it.’
‘He also said he was drunk and shouted a lot of things but that it was not directed at a specific person.
‘He said there was a couple in front of him and he did apologise to them. He said he doesn’t remember exactly what was said.’
Qaisar Shah, defending, said: ‘It’s one sentence that he says, a few words really, and the racial element wasn’t the main reason for him making the remark.
‘He’s been going to football matches since he was 15 year old – for 46 years.
‘He’s been a season ticket holder for the last two years. He’s normally the driver but because he wasn’t driving on this occasion. There was some alcohol taken and he doesn’t remember it too well.
‘He’s been trying to understand himself how he behaved in such a manner.
‘He said what he said and he’s written a letter which has been sent to the court.
‘In the third paragraph from the bottom he writes “I’m not looking for an excuse for my behaviour but more an explanation for what would make me […] behave in such a manner, it’s mainly the alcohol mixed with the daily medication I take”.
‘He feels deeply ashamed by what he’s done. He deeply apologises. He’s led a hard-working life, he’s been married for 41 years, he’s now retired.
‘Because he lives in Worcestershire it would be good to deal with the sentencing today.’
Ms Reiss said: ‘This was targeted racial abuse which is completely unacceptable.
‘Now, although Raheem Sterling was targeted he did not appear to hear this. However there were multiple people around who would have been distressed by your remarks.’
‘The range for the offence is a fine to 12 weeks custody. We have given you credit for your guilty plea and lack of previous convictions and the fact you have shown remorse.
‘We don’t feel the compensation is appropriate as it appears Mr Sterling did not hear the abuse. We are satisfied the ban will help prevent violence or disorder at football matches and we grant the banning order for three years.
‘This offence is serious enough for an immediate community order. You are deemed unsuitable for unpaid work so we therefore sentence you to a community order with an electronically monitored curfew requirement for 16 weeks – uplifted from 12 because of the racial element. This is between 6pm and 5am.’
The defendant wept silently as the judge detailed the extent of the football ban.
‘You are not to enter any premises for the purposes of attending any football marches in the UK or outside the UK.
‘You are not to come within one mile of any football stadium in the four hours before kick off, during or four hours after its concluded on a game day.
‘You are not to come within one mile of the Aston Villa stadium when they play at home, and when they play away they are not to travel to that city where the match takes place for four hours before kick off, during and four hours after the match concluded.’
O’Brien, of Plumstead Close, Worcestershire, admitted one count of racially aggravated intentional harassment and was handed a 16-week curfew, banned from football matches for three years, and ordered to pay £175 in costs.