Football hooligan who knocked out rival fan with headbutt in unprovoked attack avoids jail

Mason Preston was with a group of Portsmouth fans when he attacked the victim for wearing a Southampton shirt


A 21-year-old football hooligan has avoided a prison sentence for head-butting a rival fan which knocked him unconscious in a “disgraceful and unprovoked piece of mob violence”.

Mason Preston, of Nutwick Road, Havant, Hampshire, was with a group of Portsmouth Football Club fans at Basingstoke railway station when he attacked the victim, Sacha Brown, who was wearing the jersey of Southampton FC – a long-standing rival team.

The defendant pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to assault causing actual bodily harm and was handed a prison sentence of 14 months suspended for two years, a five-year Football Banning Order, and was ordered to pay the victim £3,000 in compensation.

Edward Hollingsworth, prosecuting, told Portsmouth Crown Court that Mr Brown had been travelling home from watching his team play on February 5 when he was surrounded by the group of fans as he changed platform.

He said: “He remembers being confronted by a large group of noisy individuals with angry faces – a group of Portsmouth Football Club fans who had watched their team playing a separate fixture.”

Mr Hollingsworth said the group were shouting chants and started calling Mr Brown a “scummer”, a nickname given by Portsmouth fans to supporters of Southampton.

He continued: “The next thing he was aware of was feeling surrounded by a group, feeling very threatened, he described a group of about 20 of them, with lots of them very close to him displaying aggression.

“The defendant was one of those football fans in the front, he reached out, grabbed the complainant, head-butting him hard, causing him to fall back and hit his head and fall unconscious.

“It was completely unprovoked, the complainant was trying to avoid confrontation and hostility when faced with that mob.”

Mr Hollingsworth said the defendant had previous convictions dating back to 2018 for common assault and for possession of cannabis and cocaine.

The court was shown mobile footage of the group of fans chanting and the attack on Mr Brown, which showed him left lying unconscious on the platform.

Howard Barrington-Clark, defending, said Preston had shown “genuine remorse” and added: “He is truly shocked and ashamed.”

At sentencing, the judge Recorder Simone Levene told Preston: “This was a disgraceful and completely unprovoked piece of mob violence where you did the damage.

“In the next two years, if you commit any offence you will be brought back and you will get your 14 months’ imprisonment on top of whatever you get for any further offence.”

Sergeant Ryan Wood, of British Transport Police, said after the hearing: “The violent actions of Preston within a busy station showed utter disregard for the welfare of his victim and caused significant distress to the travelling public.

“Football-related violence will not be tolerated anywhere across the railway network – we will pursue offenders and put them before the courts.”