Bin Laden cutout appears in sports crowd
Once again, a controversial figure's cardboard cutout has somehow slipped through the cracks and appeared in the stands of a professional sporting event.
English soccer club Leeds United has issued an apology after a cutout of Osama bin Laden was spotted in attendance at one of their games. Even worse, Bin Laden was placed in the front row of a large cluster of headshots in the stadium.
Spectators are understandably banned from attending live events in the United Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic. Much like the NRL, several English football clubs began allowing fans to purchase seats they could fill with cutouts of their likeness.
Leeds United put 15,000 seats up for sale at their stadium for the last five games of the English Football League's Championship. They asked fans who bought "crowdies" to upload photos of themselves or their loved ones "ideally in club colours."
Seats sold for AU$45, and the club said they "proved to be extremely popular."
However, soon after the promotion was unveiled, the club was forced to issue an apology after a photo of the infamous terrorist's cutout circulated on social media.
Tremendous effort from whoever actually paid English pounds just to have Bin Laden sit in the Leeds crowd. pic.twitter.com/XhEZd87Vqw— Elliot Hackney (@ElliotHackney) June 24, 2020
Comedian David Baddiel lashed Leeds United for allowing the submission to be approved, printed and placed in the fake crowd.
"What's amazing about this is that someone at Leeds is educated enough to realise that even a fake crowd should not be entirely white, but not educated enough to know who Osama bin Laden is," Baddiel tweeted.
One fan even tweeted his bemusement after discovering he was placed directly next to Bin Laden's cutout in the stands: "Thanks @lufc I'm next to Bin bloody Laden!!!"
Bin Laden, who died in 2011, is believed to be largely responsible for the horrific 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Following the severe backlash, Leeds United officials told the BBC they "will ensure there are no more offensive images" for the remaining matches.
This is not the first time a sports team has landed in hot water over unwanted spectators in attendance during the coronavirus pandemic. During an NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights in round three, a cardboard cutout of serial killer Harold Fredrick Shipman was spotted in the crowd.
Shipman was an English doctor who is believed to be the most prolific serial killer in history, having been found guilty of the murder of 15 patients in January 2000, with estimates he may have had more than 250 victims. He was sentenced to life in prison but took his own life in 2004.
NRL head of marketing Peter Jarmain told NRL.com: "We wanted to make sure the lifeblood of the NRL, our members and fans, had the chance to pull on their jerseys, don their club colours and support in a really fun way."
"I know the players and clubs will appreciate the support, even if the fans aren't able to shout, celebrate and jump around for the tries and hits as they usually would."
A South Korean soccer team had to issue an apology after their stands were filled with inflatable sex dolls. FC Seoul was hit with a record $124,000 fine for using sex dolls instead of mannequins to fill empty seats in their stadium.
Leeds lost 2-0 to Cardiff City on Sunday, slipping to second place in the Championship.
Originally published as Cutout furore over Bin Laden appearance