'Celebration of football' ended in rampage, court told

Pat Hurst,Pa
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:05

A "celebration of football" ended in mayhem and violence as Rangers hooligans went on the rampage, a court heard today.

Riot police fought hand-to-hand running battles with hundreds of drunken fans of the Glasgow club, who showered officers with bottles and other missiles, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The violence was captured on CCTV footage and shown to the court today as 12 men sat in the dock awaiting sentence for their part in the trouble in the city as it hosted the Uefa Cup Final in May 2008.

A number of defendants had brought bags and suitcases, piled up at the back of the dock, expecting to be going to jail.

All will now be sentenced tomorrow.

They were arrested after police publicised CCTV footage of the hours of violence during and after the Scottish club's 2-0 defeat to Zenit St Petersburg at the City of Manchester Stadium.

An estimated 125,000 Rangers fans, most without tickets, descended on the city, drinking pubs and supermarkets dry, the court heard.

But trouble erupted at a fan zone after a giant screen in Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre failed close to kick-off time.

Ricky Holland, prosecuting, said the game was prestigious and intended to be a "celebration of football".

"The vast majority were well behaved, there is numerous instances, discernable from the footage and statements from police officers of other Glasgow Rangers supporters trying to curb the disorderly behaviour of other people, caught up in this," he said.

"So by no means was everyone who came to Manchester that day intent on committing mayhem, but that was ultimately what the city was subjected to."

Mr Holland said three fan zones with giant screens were set up by Manchester City Council to accommodate ticketless fans who swamped the city from early in the morning of the match.

He added: "There was copious amounts of drink already taken, large amounts, a number of public houses simply ran out of alcohol, supermarkets and the like managed to sell all their wares."

But when the big screen in Piccadilly Gardens failed, trouble erupted among the 8,000 fans assembled there.

Engineers attempting to fix the problem were pelted with bottles, causing £300,000 damage to the screen, the court heard.

"Various disgruntled supporters began to vent their frustration on property and police," Mr Holland added.

He told the court riot police had never encountered scenes of such "ferocity and intensity", adding: "It is difficult to recall anything on the scale of what took place here."

Police later trawled through hours of CCTV footage to identify the culprits, leading to the arrest of the 12 in the dock.

The court then dealt with individual defendants, starting with Englishman Michael Hindle, showing film clips of each one's involvement in the trouble.

Hindle, 22, from Westmorland Close, Leyland, Lancs, was seen throwing a bottle at police. A Blackburn Rovers fan, he was classed as a "risk supporter" by local police and has served a ban for shouting abuse at rival fans while following the Lancashire team.

Gordon Forrest, 36, from Ledi Drive, Bearsden, Glasgow, dressed in a Rangers shirt and tracksuit bottoms was seen on footage involved in running battles with police, kicking and pushing the riot shield of one officer and inciting others as hooligans swarmed around a police van to attack the vehicle.

Forrest already has a number of previous convictions including two assaults, one on a police officer and breach of the peace.

He has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and told police after arrest he had "no recollection" of the entire day as he had drunk 24 bottles of lager at the time.

Thomas Murphy, 28, of Flatterton Road, Greenock, Renfrewshire, was seen on three separate occasions hurling bottles at police.

Murphy, who admitted violent disorder, has a string of convictions including for assaulting police officers, assault, carrying an offensive weapon, breach of the peace and an unspecified football-related conviction.

Seven days after the trouble in Manchester he was sentenced in Scotland for Breach of the Peace and assault on an unrelated matter.

John Saunders, 32, from Fullarton Road, Cumbernauld, Glasgow, was seen draped in the Union flag attacking a police van and throwing a bottle at heavily outnumbered officers surrounded by hooligans. He has admitted violent disorder.

He has previous convictions for domestic abuse and is currently serving a five-month jail term for possession of an offensive weapon.