FOUR football yobs have been banned from attending matches for their part in hostilities at a Wrexham v Chester derby match.
The charges faced by the four men all related to the tense game between the two rival sides at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham on August 31 last year, which District Judge Andrew Shaw described as a “fierce rivalry” at the town’s magistrates court yesterday.
Three fans were sentenced to five-year football banning orders and a fourth was sentenced to a three-year ban.
Up to 100 Wrexham followers gathered at the Red Lion pub in Kingsmills, which opened at 7am on the day of the game.
At one point 40 people went into the pub car park and had their pictures taken with two offensive banners – one reading ‘2 Dead Fans and 1 Dead Club’ and one reading ‘Come Join Lunty In Hell’ – although none of the defendants was alleged to have been in the photograph, despite some being in attendance at the pub.
Judge Shaw said the banners referred to the tragic deaths of two Chester FC fans.
The Chester fans were transported to the Glyndwr University Stand on the day of the derby match by police under strict ‘bubble’ travel arrangements.
Once inside the ground, a number of people sitting in the Wrexham FC area went to the corner of the Mold Road Stand closest to the away fans.
In a previous hearing the area was dubbed the ‘Hate Corner’ of The Racecourse.
Before the game one of the banners was unfurled and highlighted by a red flare, which Judge Shaw said had the desired effect of incensing the away fans.
He condemned the behaviour of troublesome elements who followed both Wrexham and Chester on the day of the match but said the banners which were displayed by the group in the corner of the Mold Road Stand were “particularly shameful”.
Father and son James and Alan Jones were found guilty of assaulting a security steward Artam Hasaj, who went into the crowd to help a colleague who got into trouble after entering the crowd to remove one of the banners.
James Jones, 25, of Cristionydd, Penycae, denied assaulting Mr Hasaj, claiming he tried to put his arm across him in order to protect his father.
But he was found guilty after Judge Shaw said his father appeared to be in no danger and police camera footage clearly showed him throwing a punch and making contact with the back of Mr Hasaj’s head.
James Jones also previously admitted a public order offence relating to a banner.
He was handed a five-year football banning order and ordered to undertake a 12-month community order with 200 hours unpaid work, as well as paying court costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £60.
His father, Alan Gruffydd Jones, 48, of Eighth Avenue, Llay, was found guilty of kneeing Mr Hasaj in the ribs after the judge dismissed his claims he had only entered the crowd to look for his son and made no contact with the steward.
He was also given a five-year football banning order and ordered to undertake a 16-week community order with a curfew between 10pm and 6am, as well as paying costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £60.
Sentencing both men, Judge Shaw said: “It became clear during the course of the trial that the steward was quite traumatised by what happened.
“As far as you are concerned, Alan Jones, you assaulted the steward after he was assaulted by others and in the context of the general melee.
“James Jones, you saw your father assault the steward and he was in no danger.”
Gareth Higgins, 27, of Heol Dirion, Coedpoeth, was found guilty of making a hanging gesture towards Chester fans in reference to a fan who died, despite claiming he was chanting and had not made such a gesture.
He was given a five-year banning order and made to pay a £450 fine, £200 costs and a £45 victim surcharge.
And Matthew Duncan, 21, of Trevenna Way, Wrexham was found guilty of displaying the banner which read ‘2 Dead Fans and 1 Dead Club’ with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
He was given a three-year banning order and will be made to undertake an eight-week community order involving a curfew between 8pm and 8am.
He was also told to pay £200 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
Judge Shaw told the four convicted defendants: “We’ve all seen the camera footage and you had a chance to reflect on what you saw.
“There’s no doubt that both sets of supporters bear the blame for their behaviours towards each other.”
However, he described the behaviour of the group in the corner of the Mold Road Stand as ‘particularly shameful’.
Describing the banners, he said: “They crossed taboo to some extent as they commented on the suicide of a fellow football fan and caused distress to his family.”
l A fifth defendant, Tomos Futcher, 24, of Corkscrew Lane, Ruabon, was found not guilty of the same offence after Judge Shaw said he could not disprove his claims that he did not know what was on the banner which said ‘Come Join Lunty In Hell’.
Futcher said he was asked to pass the banner to a man behind him and did not see its content as it was unfurled over his head.