Banned Manchester United fan from near Great Yarmouth pays penalty for Champions League away trips

Paul Hodgson leaves Manchester Magistrates' Court. Paul Hodgson leaves Manchester Magistrates' Court.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
6:30 AM

A Manchester United fan from near Great Yarmouth has been sentenced for jetting across Europe to follow his team – in breach of a football banning order.

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Paul Hodgson, of Thames Way, Caister, got away with watching United play Shakhtar Donetsk in October, but was rumbled when he tried to watch a second Champions League match against Real Sociedad last month.

The 48-year-old was originally given a banning order for throwing a coin during the Reds’ 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United in January 2012, and was forbidden from attending matches until July 2015.

It prevented him from going to matches in the UK as well as United and England games overseas.

The company director pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching the banning order by attending games against Real Sociedad and Shakhtar Donetsk at a hearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court last month.

And Hodgson appeared at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court for sentence on Monday.

Kevin Batch, defending Hodgson, said his client felt the original banning order was “disproportionate”.

“Speaking to him this morning I think there was an element of perhaps being let down originally as he was told it was one incident of throwing a coin into a restricted area, not at anybody,” he said. “He was told he wouldn’t get a banning order.”

He told the court such orders were designed to prevent people from going to matches in drink to cause trouble, and “that is not Paul Hodgson”.

“What this is is a middle-aged man who is generally speaking lawful and respectable who chances his arm to watch two football matches some distance away,” added Mr Batch.

Hodgson, a United fan since the age of six and a season ticket holder for five years, has three grown-up daughters, the court heard.

Since getting the banning order he transferred his season ticket to the boyfriend of one of his daughters, who lives in Cheshire.

Mr Batch said as soon as Hodgson was told Manchester police wanted to speak to him, he co-operated fully.

“He returned to the UK, went to the police station and was frank and candid and told them everything they wanted to know,” he said.

He did not get to watch the Real Sociedad game.

“He will have to do what many people do now, which is sit in front of the TV and shout and moan at the screen,” Mr Batch told the court.

Magistrates slapped Hodgson with a 12-month community order, with 60 hours unpaid work and £145 costs.

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