Liverpool face a UEFA fine after their travelling fans unfurled a banner in Genk on Wednesday night that the club described as ‘highly offensive and inappropriate’.
The explicit image – a picture of Divock Origi superimposed on to a naked black man next to the European Cup – was on display for a short period before Liverpool security guards arrived to confiscate and destroy it 35 minutes before kick-off. Club officials were furious, given the banner’s racial implications.
UEFA did not comment on the matter on Wednesday night but it is almost certain they will take action against Liverpool; a recent example came in May 2018 when Bayern Munich were fined €25,000 for an ‘illicit banner’ that was on display in their Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
Liverpool have vowed to take the strongest possible measures against the fan, or fans, who brought the banner into the Luminus Arena and they will be studying footage to identify those responsible for the mindless behaviour.
This will be the second time in the space of a month that Liverpool have found themselves the subject of disciplinary proceedings from UEFA – last month they were fined €10,000 following an incident of pitch encroachment by individual supporters when they Red Bull Salzburg 4-3.
A Liverpool spokesperson said: ‘Liverpool Football Club condemns the offensive banner displayed in our section of the ground, prior to kick off. To be clear, the image used perpetuated a racist stereotype.
‘This is completely unacceptable. We acted swiftly to have the banner removed and we are now working with the local authorities and stadium team in Genk to identify those responsible. Any subsequent action will be taken in keeping with our sanctions process.’ Kick It Out backed Liverpool’s statement when asked for a comment on the incident.
Manager Jurgen Klopp refused to comment on the offensive banner. When asked about the banner, Klopp, whose side strolled to victory with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring a classy double, would only say: ‘I know the club have spoken about it.’
Origi is a cult hero with Liverpool fans, having scored the goal that secured the 2-0 victory in last season’s Champions League final against Tottenham. The Belgium international, who started his career at Genk, was also on the mark twice in the epic semi-final defeat of Barcelona.
Liverpool are in the spotlight at the moment after the 2011 incident between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra returned to the headlines over the weekend. Former vice-captain Jamie Carragher apologised for Liverpool’s decision to publicly support Suarez after he racially abused Patrice Evra eight years ago, but Evra’s team-mate at the time, Rio Ferdinand, has called on Liverpool to officially apologise for the incident.