Town reacts to 'White Lives Matter Burnley' aeroplane banner

Burnley residents, business people and politicians have reacted to the incident at Burnley Football Club's Premier League match against Manchester City last night in which an aeroplane carrying a banner reading "White Lives Matter Burnley" was flown over the Etihad Stadium.

By Dominic Collis
Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 12:33 pm

Burnley Football Club immediately issued a statement condemning the act which has garnered negative national headlines and said it was fully behind the Black Lives Matter initiative, while club captain Ben Mee spoke passionately against the stunt in his post-match interview.

The vast majority of Clarets fans also expressed their disgust on social media, although some said they supported the action.

Burnley's Conservative MP Antony Higginbotham described it as "a crass publicity stunt" and said it had no place in Burnley.

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The banner flown over the Etihad Stadium last night

He said: "This crass publicity stunt was done with the intention of offending and causing hurt to so many in our community and those responsible should be ashamed of their desire to divide people. They do not speak for the town and the club has my full support in finding out who they are and taking action.

"These attitudes have no place in Burnley or our society. We should be working together to tackle inequality rather than using people's race, religion or background to divide our community. I will keep working with the Premier League and Burnley FC to stamp out prejudice and discrimination."

Prominent Burnley businessman Andrew Brown, who owns the award-winning Crow Wood Leisure in the town, described the banner as "inexcusable" and said it undermined the efforts of himself and other local people in trying to portray Burnley in a positive light around the country.

An angry and frustrated Mr Brown said: "Well done to the Neanderthals responsible for flying that banner over City’s ground tonight.

"Many people, including everyone at Crow Wood, have worked really hard for many years to promote Burnley in a positive light. This one action has been seen all around the world and makes us look stupid.

"Those responsible will never be welcome at any of our facilities again, an inexcusably and childish prank that is not remotely funny."

Lifelong Clarets fan and Burnley Council leader Coun. Charlie Briggs said he was "angry and embarrassed at what happened.

He added: "This has tarnished the name of 'proper' fans, the club and our town and there's no place for it in our society."

Burnley Council also strongly condemned the actions of those responsible for the "offensive and embarrassing banner" that flew over the Etihad Stadium yesterday evening.

A council spokesman said: "Burnley is an inclusive town and welcomes people from all walks of life where diversity is celebrated. The response to the pandemic has shown how Burnley’s diverse communities have come together to support each other in the time of need irrespective of race, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation.

"The council fully supports the Black Lives Matter initiative and stands against racism of any kind. We are appalled that a small group of individuals have chosen to oppose this important initiative in an abhorrent way. This is not representative of the football club or our town.

"The council fully supports and praises Burnley Football club and Sean Dyche’s strong and speedy condemnation to the offensive and embarrassing banner."

The Mayor of Burnley, Coun. Wajid Khan, said: "We want Burnley and its football club to be known for all the right reasons, not like this.

"We're proud of the fact that people of all backgrounds get on with each other and go about their day-to-day lives without any problem. We don't need mindless acts like this and I'm sure people across our communities will be as upset and dismayed as I am."

Burnley Council's Brand Manager Rachel Bayley highlighted the good work Burnley students, businesses and residents had done working together during the recent coronavirus crisis.

She said: "We are disappointed that a small group of individuals have chosen to detract from the good work going on in the town during these difficult few months and would like to reiterate what Burnley FC said in their statement that this opinion is not what the town of Burnley, its businesses, bondholders and residents stand for.

"Burnley has historically and continues to welcome people from all walks of life who roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, humbly and with good humour. We are proud that there have been peaceful Black Lives Matter protests over the past couple of weeks, where the community and police worked peacefully together.

"We are proud that textiles students at Burnley College have been making vital PPE for frontline staff. We are proud that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Burnley Together - a partnership including Burnley Borough Council, Burnley FC in the Community, The Calico Group and others - has provided thousands of food parcels, mental health support to young people and reached out to elderly people who feel lonely.

"We are proud that different faith organisations have successfully come together to support those in need.

"We hope that going forward, the hard work of people and businesses in the town makes the headlines, rather than the negative actions of a small minority who are not the voice of our town."