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atrocious Man (61) who shouted 'Irish ****' at soccer star James McClean is hit with fine

Peter Holden was accused of shouting abuse at McClean at the match last year


James McClean

James McClean

James McClean

A 61-year-old man who was accused of shouting “Irish ****” at Ireland soccer star James McClean has been hit with a fine in court. 

Peter Holden hurled racial abuse against James (32) during a match in England last September.

The Wigan Athletic ace had been playing against Accrington Stanley when Holden was heard by a police officer targeting James.

Accrington banned Holden from their Wham Stadium and anti-racism campaigners wanted the court to uphold it.

But Blackburn Magistrates’ Court decided not to impose its own ban, which would have been for a minimum of three years.

A magistrate said: “We believe this was an isolated incident and there is no risk of violence or disorder in future.”

Holden, of Limefield Street in Accrington, was fined £233 with £85 costs.

He was accused of repeatedly chanting “England” and then shouting abuse at McClean at the match last year.

Prosecution lawyer Alex Mann had urged the court to take a stand against racial abuse.

She said: “This is the kind of offence that will attract media attention and we should show that something is being done about this kind of behaviour.

“Where a person is convicted of a relevant offence you must make a banning order.”

Holden’s lawyer, Gareth Price, said his client had written a letter of apology to Accrington Stanley.

The court heard that Holden wrote that he had no excuse for his “atrocious” behaviour and that he wanted to “apologise to all concerned, in particular the footballer who [his] comment was directed towards”.

Mr Price said his client should not get a stadium ban and that the club will review its ban at the end of court proceedings.

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“He is a lover of football, rather than a follower of a particular team, and still finds it difficult to explain the words that he used,” he added.

Originally from Derry, McClean has more than 80 caps for his country, but his decision not to wear a poppy because of its links to the British Army has made him a target for sectarian abuse during his 10 years playing in England.

McClean has been vocal about how abuse aimed in his direction was ignored by the authorities for a number of years.

There was a noticeable change in stance from the FA in the months before the pandemic shut down stadiums.

Barnsley received a £20,000 fine for sectarian abuse directed at McClean with the FA critical of what they perceived to be a slack attitude to the offences.

On another occasion, a game at Huddersfield was paused when McClean reported comments to the referee as he prepared to take a dead ball. Fans were warned to stop over the PA system.

In August, Wigan Athletic took the significant step of writing to their League One rivals to warn them that an FA charge will come their way if James McClean receives sectarian abuse from their spectators.


Erin McClean, wife of James McClean, has previously spoken out about the abuse the family receives

Erin McClean, wife of James McClean, has previously spoken out about the abuse the family receives

Erin McClean, wife of James McClean, has previously spoken out about the abuse the family receives

After McClean re-joined Wigan where he played for two seasons between 2013 and 2015, his new employers wrote to their League One counterparts, advising that they should “consider putting plans in place to respond to any inappropriate or unlawful chanting”.

The letter – the details of which first emerged in The Guardian – was explained as an attempt to ensure clubs were “fully sighted on the circumstances and to avoid your club being charged with contravening rule E20 by the FA.”

It adds that if there are issues during a particular game, it would be “helpful” if the Ireland international was spoken to and informed of action that was taken.

Wigan say they have discussed the reporting procedure with McClean, the FA, the PFA, equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, the English Football League and Greater Manchester police.

McClean had previously expressed dissatisfaction with a lack of support from Kick It Out, with the player of the opinion that anti-Irish comments weren’t taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination.

But they came out strongly in support of McClean in January 2020 when they said he was subjected to "disgraceful anti-Irish and sectarian abuse" during a league game with Millwall.

Last year McClean’s wife Erin opened up on the impact of social media threats sent in the family’s direction, admitting that she once watched a match in fear after an anonymous person said they would be bringing a gun to the game.

"There isn't a day that goes by that either one of us don't receive a message of some sort, whether it be a threat or else telling us to get the f**k out of England," she wrote on Twitter.

"And to be honest it's gotten to the point where it doesn't affect us. However, we have three very young children who are now at an age where they know and understand these things being said.

"Of course we have tried as hard as possible to keep them away from it all but there has been times where we are out shopping and there are people making remarks towards James in front of the kids. They don't deserve this.

"People ask me 'How do you deal with it?' and I always say we're well used to it but why should we be? Why should we have to read messages like that daily for almost a decade.

"We've been spat at, shouted at, nights out have been ruined by people making remarks towards him. I even remember someone threatened him saying they were taking a gun with them to a certain match and I can still remember watching that match in absolute fear on the TV.”

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