Two British men have been jailed after former Manchester United footballer Andy Cole, 42, was racially abused during a flight.
Cole, who has played for England, was travelling on an Aer Arran service from Dublin to Manchester when he was subjected to the racist abuse.
Gregory Horan, 26, and Lee Byrne, 28, who had begun drinking before boarding the 9.30am flight on December 29 last year, taunted Mr Cole, calling him ‘Mr Blackman’.
The pair were very disruptive during the flight and hassled other passengers and cabin crew.
Mr Cole was called a ‘spook’ by the men, and was so angry and humiliated that he was forced to change seats.
At Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court Judge Mushtaq Khokar gave Byrne a 20-week sentence and Horan a ten-week sentence and they were each ordered to pay a £80 victim surcharge.
On the flight, Byrne reportedly told Mr Cole: “Where I’m from it’s politically correct to address you as Mr Blackman.”
Upon arrival at Manchester Airport Horan and Byrne were arrested by police and later charged.
In a statement read out in court, Mr Cole, who is an ambassador for Manchester United, said: “I’ve been the victim of racism before and will not tolerate this abuse in any capacity.
“I am worried if nothing happens or changes the next generation of young people, including my own children, will suffer the same discrimination and that is unacceptable to me.”
“‘I’ve done a lot of work in sport and football around racism.”
Andy Cole experienced racial abuse during his successful career and is now involved with the ‘Kick It Out’ anti-racism campaign alongside other prominent footballers.