Fan arrested over alleged Munich mocking during Manchester City vs Manchester United

A fan has been arrested on suspicion of mocking the Munich air disaster during Sunday’s derby match between Manchester City and Manchester United.

The Greater Manchester Police have confirmed that a man was arrested at the Premier League match “following reports made in the crowd”.

Footage circulated on social media showing a man in the home section appearing to mimic an airplane — a reference to the 1958 Munich Air Disaster involving the Manchester United squad, which claimed the lives of 23 people.

A further video then appeared to show the same man being escorted out of the stadium by local police officers.

“During the Manchester derby, officers arrested a man on suspicion of tragedy chanting,” a spokesperson from the GMP told The Athletic.

“Following reports made in the crowd, the man was promptly arrested by our officers.”



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What is tragedy chanting?

Tragedy chanting is when fans engage in deeply offensive songs that reference fatal accidents or stadium disasters that involve the players, fans or officials of rival clubs.

These chants have been widely condemned across football but have remained present in stadiums.

In April 2023, a petition to make chanting about tragedies at football matches a criminal offence gained over 17,000 signatures in the space of a week. That followed chants relating to the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster during Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester United.



‘Please stop singing about Hillsborough and Munich’

How is tragedy chanting punished?

The UK government acknowledged this and responded by stating: “The Government is committed to tackling all harmful behaviours at football matches. Existing legislation can be used to prosecute those engaging in chanting about tragedies and death at football.”

It added: “Existing law can be used to prosecute offenders chanting or shouting about tragedies and death at football matches.

“The Public Order Act 1986 (POA) provides for situations where threatening or abusive language can meet the threshold for arrest and prosecution.

“Section 4A of the POA sets out that a person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, they use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

“Section 5 of the POA sets out that a person is guilty of an offence if they use threatening or abusive words or behaviour, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.”

What are examples of tragedy chanting?

A Tottenham Hotspur fan was given a three-year football banning order and fined in June 2023 for making gestures mocking the Hillsborough tragedy during Spurs’ 4-3 defeat at Anfield two months previously.

In August, a fan was arrested for engaging in tragedy chanting during the 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

In November, the Football Association (FA) said it was looking into “tragedy chanting” during the Premier League fixture between Luton Town and Liverpool at Kenilworth Road.

Chants that indirectly referenced the Hillsborough stadium disaster were heard from some supporters during the second half of the 1-1 draw.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp — who said he did not hear the chants himself — said: “Shame on everyone who said it.”

The FA raised concerns in November about the frequency of offensive chanting about the tragedy, which saw 97 Liverpool supporters lose their lives in 1989.

In January, three Manchester United supporters were arrested for chants related to the Hillsborough disaster before their Premier League match at Anfield the previous month.



Why victim chants hurt Liverpool so deeply: ‘It makes tragedy seem acceptable’

Tragedy chanting has also been heard in matches involving other Premier League clubs.

In February 2023, the Premier League said they are treating the issue as a “matter of urgency” following chants between fans of Leeds United and Manchester United.

Chants referencing the Munich Air Disaster and the murders of two Leeds fans in Istanbul in 2000 were traded between the rival fans.



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(Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

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