- Premier League
Sunderland fan charged with racist abuse
A Sunderland fan who claimed he was doing a 'chicken dance' has been charged with a racially aggravated offence for allegedly making a monkey gesture towards West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku.
Liam Jones, 21, of East Vines, Sunderland will appear at Sunderland Magistrates Court on April 22 to face the charges relating to the Black Cats' 4-2 loss to West Brom at the Stadium of Light on November 24.
First arrested that month, before being released on bail, the amateur kickboxer has consistently pleaded his innocence over the incident, claiming he was dancing following Lukaku's goal.
Mr Jones was also banned from attending Sunderland matches until an outcome had been reached - a decision that left him considerably upset.
"People have got it all wrong," he said at the time. "I wasn't doing a monkey chant. I was doing a chicken dance. I'm devastated people think I'm racist. I have black friends and black cousins. If I was racist, I wouldn't pay to watch Sunderland because they have black players.
"I'm absolutely gutted I can't go to matches. I've been going for years. I can see where the club is coming from and I can see how the photo looks, but I want everyone to know that I am not racist."
Confirming a charge has now been made, a spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Extensive inquiries have been carried out into the report and a 21-year-old man was arrested and has subsequently been charged with a racially aggravated offence."
Chief superintendent Kay Blyth, Sunderland Area Commander, added that any further claims of racist behaviour taking place during Sunderland matches will be treated seriously and fully investigated.
"We will not tolerate racist behaviour of any kind and will fully investigate any reports we receive," she said.
Elsewhere, Black Cats defender John Egan has been rewarded with a one-year contract extension at the club - just as manager Martin O'Neill had promised. Egan, 20, is highly-rated at the Stadium of Light but suffered an unfortunate double-leg break while on loan at Bradford City in November.
Speaking at the time of the injury, O'Neill said: "I gave him a squad number at the start of the season, almost as much for attitude as anything else. He's got a fantastic attitude to do really well."