A supporter who made monkey gestures at Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham and spat towards rival fans has been banned from attending matches for four years.
Wolves season ticket holder Josef Smith was found guilty of using racially aggravated threatening or abusive behaviour after he “curled his fists under his armpits in a chimp-like gesture” when Abraham scored a hat-trick.
Smith told magistrates he had made a “get back” gesture – which may have been misinterpreted – while sitting alongside his 70-year-old mother during Chelsea’s 5-2 victory on September 14 last year.
The 40-year-old, who denies both charges against him, also suggested that mucus from a “bad sneeze” may have been mistaken for spittle aimed at Chelsea fans.
Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard evidence from two other Molineux season ticket holders, including one who claimed Smith’s gesture appeared to be aimed at black players on the pitch.
Opening the case against Smith on Thursday, prosecutor Lynda Gudgeon said he was ejected from the ground after the incident, which was caught on CCTV from three angles.
Ms Gudgeon told magistrates: “Officers were called to the Upper Steve Bull Stand to assist in relation to ejecting the defendant.
“They escorted him from his seat, where he was identified at this stage by three witnesses.”
One of the witnesses, the court heard, saw Smith making monkey gestures and then launching an “astonishing quantity” of spittle from the stand’s top tier into visiting supporters in the lower tier.
Smith, of Beech Road, Kingswinford, near Dudley, was interviewed by police on November 1 at Wolverhampton police station, where he told officers he had “no ongoing feud” with other Wolves supporters.
He also told police he was very frustrated with the scoreline and had stood up and sworn during the game – but had only “raised his arms in an upwards direction” to motivate the Wolves players.
Two witnesses gave evidence to magistrates from behind a screen protecting them from being identified – with one saying he did not believe it was possible that Smith was simply pointing at the pitch.
The man told the court: “The Chelsea player that scored happened to be black and he celebrated in front of the Chelsea fans who were below us.
“As he did that, I noticed a gentleman stood up and curled his fists under his armpits in a chimp-like gesture. It certainly looked as if it was aimed towards the players on the pitch and the goalscorer.
“I believed it was a racist gesture towards the player.”
Answering questions from his solicitor, David Dorrance, Smith told the court: “When the fourth goal was scored, the white shirt number nine ran over to the side and stood on top of the electronic advertising board.
“The CCTV shows at that point I stood up. There was a reaction to the provocation, but it wasn’t a monkey gesture.”
The court was told that Smith’s mother, also a season ticket-holder, was “blameless” during the incident but no longer attended matches.
Magistrates deliberated for around an hour before convicting Smith of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and a racially aggravated count of the same offence.
Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Arthur Wheldon told Smith he would have to serve a four-year football banning order.
The magistrates told Smith: “We have heard from two Crown prosecution witnesses who had a clear view of you. Both witnesses were adamant as to their recollection.
“The court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in a heightened state of agitation the defendant spat with force, landing on fellow Wolves supporters.
“The court is further satisfied you made a deliberately racially-aggravated gesture in response to Tammy Abraham’s celebration… in what has been described as a chimp motion.”
As well as the football banning order, Smith was fined £800 and ordered to pay £600 in costs and a £50 victim surcharge, making a total bill of £1,450.