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`He could have caused a riot'

From the archive, first published Wednesday 23rd Nov 2005.

A FAN who has been causing trouble at the County Ground for the last 10 years and nearly sparked a full scale riot has been banned from all Swindon Town games.

Mark McKegney, 36, of Toothill, was given a two-year banning order at Swindon Magistrates' Court yesterday, stopping him from watching any Swindon match home or away.

The court heard how McKegney, a suspected member of Swindon's so-called hooligan `firm', the Swindon Active Service (SAS), had almost sparked a mass brawl after his behaviour at one particular game.

Swindon police's football liaison officer, PC James Neighbour, said that the result would make matches safer for the real fans.

The order also bans McKegney from watching England or Wales and he will have to surrender his passport when the national teams play abroad.

A banning order works like an anti-social behaviour order meaning that it is not a criminal charge but a civil action. If McKegney breaks it then that will be a criminal offence.

Unemployed McKegney had tried to fight the ban and the outcome has left him facing court costs of £500, which he has 28 days to pay.

PC Neighbour told the trial how McKegney had been at the centre of trouble in away games with teams including QPR, Bristol City, Peterborough and Bournemouth.

In April last year the hooligan was thrown out of the match at Wycombe Wanderers after running on to the pitch.

And in February this year he was chucked out of a game at Torquay.

It was during that match, the court heard, that McKegney's behaviour could have led to dire consequences.

Giving evidence Barry Warne, Torquay's club safety officer with more than 30 years experience as a steward, said it was lucky McKegney had not incited a riot.

"This gentleman persisted in coming forward in a very aggressive manner towards the Torquay fans.

"It was aggressive and with my experience I know when people are just having a little bit of banter and when somebody has got an aggressive manner and could incite further violence.

"His actions were likely to cause incitement. It could have broken in to a full-scale disorder.

"We had 1,800 away supporters and one of them decided to stand out alone. God forbid if the other 1,800 had decided to follow him."

McKegney had also been in trouble at the game away to Bourne-mouth in December 2004 ­ a game that so far has resulted in 12 other fans getting banning orders.

Referring to that incident Chris Kirkland, a town steward for 12 years, told the court: "I saw him approach the police officers in an aggressive and provocative manner.

"I felt his body language was inappropriate for the occasion."

Giving him the ban chairwoman of the bench Mamie Beasant said: "We believe that if we don't impose a football banning order you would contribute towards violence in the future." But she cast doubt over his inclusion in the hooligan firm by saying: "We have relied on your action at football matches, not on your possible membership with the SAS."

Speaking after the case PC Neighbour said: "We're very pleased with the result. He is someone that has been around a long time and this will make Swindon games safer for proper supporters."

Gareth Bethell

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