Burnley FC fan behind 'White Lives Matter' banner sacked by employer

One of the Burnley FC fans behind the incident when a plane with a ‘White Lives Matter’ banner flew over the Etihad Stadium has been sacked by his employer.

Jake Hepple, 24, organised for the plane to fly over the stadium in Manchester just after the game kicked off, as players from Manchester City and Burnley had ‘taken a knee’ to protest against racism.

Hepple, from Colne, has been sacked by Burnley aerospace manufacturer Paradigm Precision.

The company said it ‘did not condone or tolerate racism in any form’.

A spokesperson told Lancashire Live: ‘We have concluded our investigation into the conduct of one of our employees in relation to an incident at the Burnley v Manchester City match, as well as other related manners.

‘We have concluded that there has been a break of the company’s various policies and procedures. The individual no longer works for the company.

‘Paradigm Precision does not condone or tolerate racism in any form and is fully committed to diversity and inclusion.’

Police investigating the incident said yesterday that no crime was committed.

Lancashire Police launched an investigation after the plane, believed to have been operated by the firm Air Ads, flew above the stadium on Monday.

In a statement, Chief Superintendent Russ Procter said: ‘Today [Tuesday] 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.’

On Tuesday, Blackpool Airport, where Air Ads is based, announced that it was suspending banner-towing operations with immediate effect.

Stephen Smith, manager of the Blackpool Council-owned airport, said: ‘Blackpool Airport and Blackpool Council are outraged by this incident.

‘We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity. The message was offensive and the action reprehensible.

‘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.’

Many Burnley supporters and community leaders came out to condemn the stunt.

Burnley FC issued a strong statement condemning the banner during half-time and said the perpetrators would be banned for life if identified, while captain Ben Mee spoke passionately about the incident after the match.

In response to the incident, Burnley fans created a fundraiser for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, with organiser Lee Briggs, 33, a lifelong Clarets supporter, saying he felt embarrassed by his club being associated with the banner’s ‘racist language’.

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