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02nd Oct 2023

Man who displayed Bradley Lowery pic at football match loses job over incident

Steve Hopkins

Dale Houghton is expected to face a lengthy ban from attending football matches

A football fan who taunted Sunderland supporters by holding up a picture of a child cancer victim lost his job over the incident and has been warned he could face jail time.

Dale Houghton displayed a picture on his phone of six-year-old Sunderland mascot Bradley Lowery, who died in 2017 from neuroblastoma – a rare form of cancer – during Sheffield Wednesday’s match at Hillsborough on Friday.

The 31-year-old was arrested Saturday and charged with a public order offence. His brother, Drew, 27, was also arrested, but has since been released on police bail.

Bradley’s bravery and spirit endeared him to the nation and made him a friend of footballer Jermain Defoe, and following the “sickening incident” over the weekend a fundraiser was set up in Bradley’s memory. As of Monday afternoon, almost £20,000 was donated to the Bradley Lowery Foundation “to show our support and stand up against this type of behaviour in football”.

Houghton, from Rotherham, admitted the charge at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Monday and was told by District Judge James Gould that his actions were “utterly deplorable” and that all sentence options were open, including prison. He was bailed ahead of sentencing on 17 November on condition that he does not attend any football matches or go within a mile of Hillsborough stadium on match days.

Houghton was also ordered to attend a drug intervention programme. MailOnline reported that Houghton was high on cocaine at the time of the incident.

The court heard Houghton, a window fitter, had lost his job as a result of his actions and was facing a lengthy ban from attending football matches.

Prosecutor Jade Short told Sheffield Magistrates’ Court that Houghton had caused a “huge public revulsion” and had clearly found it “enjoyable banter” as he was smiling throughout, according to the Mail’s report.

Bradley’s mother Gemma branded Houghton’s actions “unforgivable”. In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: “It is not just disrespectful to Bradley but also to other people who are going through the emotional trauma of dealing with cancer.

“This image portrays negatively. I feel upset that these two men used this image to get a reaction from Sunderland fans. It was unforgivable. I have nothing but loving memories of Bradley.”

Sunderland fan Bradley captured the nation’s heart during his battle with neuroblastoma and in the months before his death led England out at Wembley alongside former Black Cats striker Defoe who called him his “best mate.”

Bradley raised more than £1million through his charity Bradley’s Fight, during his short life.

Houghton’s former employer, JRI Orthopaedics, condemned his actions and said he had not been employed by the business for some time.

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