Community service for man who threw banana at Premiership footballer

Judge says Manchester City’s Gaël Clichy ‘entitled to be upset’ by incident


A man who threw a banana at French international defender Gaël Clichy was racially motivated and there could have been no lower taunt than if he had gone out on the pitch and “behaved like a monkey”, a judge has said.

There was public outrage after the Manchester City player tweeted about the incident following the glamour tie between the Premier League champions and Limerick City at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick last August.

Kelvin Reynolds (20) of Pinewood Avenue, Caherdavin,was given 240 hours’ community service in lieu of a jail term yesterday at Limerick District Court, where he pleaded guilty to two offences arising from the incident. The judge said the community service should be carried out within the migrant community.

Judge Eugene O’Kelly said he would have had no hesitation in sending Reynolds to prison except he “feared other prisoners may extract their own punishment on him for having sullied and marred their city’s reputation”.

Before imposing sentence, the judge said he had no doubt the 20-year-old father was racially motivated and said his actions had caused extraordinary damage to Limerick’s sporting reputation.

Reynolds pleaded guilty to engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace at Thomond Park Stadium on August 5th, 2012. He also admitted assaulting Sgt Caimin Treacy, at whom he threw a soft- drink bottle on the same date.

‘Entitled to be upset’
The judge said he found it extraordinary that Reynolds, as a Manchester United fan and a junior soccer player, did not know the significance of the piece of fruit he had thrown and said Mr Clichy was “entitled to be upset”.

“He must be well aware, particularly as he supports the rival Manchester team, of the significant racial implication of a banana,” he said.

The judge said bananas were banned from most English soccer grounds and said Mr Clichy would not have resorted to social media if he had not been upset by what had happened.

He said he found it hard to believe Reynolds’s action was not racially motivated and said it was extraordinary that of all the players, the banana should land at the feet of Mr Clichy.

Before imposing sentence, the judge said Reynolds had caused “extraordinary damage to the reputation of Limerick city”, a reputation, he said, that had been tarnished because of “incessant feuding and gang warfare which led to its title of Stab City”.

However, the judge added that even in the dark days of Limerick’s dismal difficulties there has been one beacon of light: the welcome extended to visiting sporting teams.

He had had no doubt that when Mr Clichy came to Limerick, a city renowned for its sporting reputation, he was expecting to get that warm welcome.

Addressing Reynolds’s solicitor, Sarah Ryan, the judge said: “No doubt Manchester City expected to be met with this generous sporting welcome but they must have been shocked to be met with this lowest form of racial taunting. Short of your client going out on the pitch and behaving like a monkey, there is no lower taunt.”

Ms Ryan said her client, who has 65 previous convictions, was extremely sorry for what he had done. She said he had a few drinks on the date in question, picked up a banana but insisted if it was an an apple of an orange he would have thrown that instead.

Reynolds denied he had singled out Clichy and that his actions were racially motivated. He said if it was any other player he would have thrown it too.