Football fan jailed for racially abusing Forest Green Rovers player

  • ITV News' Max Walsh attended Ferguson's sentencing at Gloucester Crown Court today

A football fan has been sentenced to nine months in prison and banned from matches for six years after admitting racially abusing a Forest Green Rovers football player.

Ryan Ferguson, 24 and from Liverpool, shouted what's been described as 'horrific and violent' abuse at forward Jordon Garrick at the New Lawn in April 2023.

He's one of the first people in the country to be jailed for such an offence.

This followed a previous guilty plea to racially aggravated public order, being a football spectator failing to comply with a football banning order under the Football Spectators Act 1989 and obstructing a constable in the execution of their duty.

Garrick said he was shaken by the incident and the language used were 'words no one should have to hear'.

The court heard how Ferguson, a Tranmere Rovers fan who was subject to a five year football banning order, attended the New Lawn after receiving a complimentary ticket.

Around 35 minutes into the first half of the game, Forest Green Rovers were awarded a throw in by the West Stand corner of the pitch.

At the time a Forest Green Rovers player was tussling with a Fleetwood Town defender.

The referee came over to speak to the players and there was a moment of silence. In this moment Ferguson shouted racial abuse Jordon Garrick.

This was heard by a number of players on the pitch who reacted to Ferguson's abuse. It was also heard by club security personnel and others in the stand.

The whole incident was captured on CCTV and minutes later he was escorted out of the stands by security.

He was then questioned by police where he gave false details before being arrested. It later emerged he already had five-year football banning order, imposed in 2019.

Jordan Garrick (right) was the victim of the racial abuse. Credit: PA

In a written victim impact statement, Jordon Garrick said: "Forest Green Rovers Football Club and the Bolt New Lawn Stadium is my place of work, when I am on the pitch as a player, I am at work.

"I understand there will always be a crowd in the stands watching me and my teammates play.

"I am aware that fans will vocally express their enjoyment or disappointment at a football match, but I should never have to be subjected to racially offensive verbal abuse while at work.

"I find this type of abuse grossly offensive. I was shocked at the disgusting language used against me, these are words that no-one should ever hear."

Following sentencing PC Adrian Tuft, a dedicated football officer at Gloucestershire Constabulary said: “Ferguson is a persistent football offender, this is not the first time that he has breached his banning order.

"On this occasion Ferguson breached his order using horrendous racial abuse which was clearly heard by the intended victim and a number of his teammates.

“Clearly Ferguson cannot be trusted inside a football ground or its immediate vicinity on a match day. We would encourage all football supporters to report any racial, homophobic or other hateful abuse to the club, to The FA, Kick It Out, or the police.

Everything was caught on CCTV. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

“As a Force we treat these reports with the utmost seriousness and will work closely with the clubs, the FA and the UK Football Policing Unit to identify any suspects and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, NPCC lead for Football Policing, said: “Racist abuse will not be tolerated in football stadiums, and I’m pleased the court has recognised the seriousness of these offences and issued a prison sentence in this case.

“We can see from Jordon Garrick’s statement the impact this abuse has had on him. No-one should ever have to experience this, not least at their place of work.

“Breaching a football banning order is also a serious offence, and I’m pleased to see that a further six-year order has been issued in this case.

“We collectively need to make football a safe environment for the overwhelming majority of fans want to enjoy the game, and anyone who commits a criminal offence either outside or inside a football ground can expect to face the consequences of their actions.”

A spokesperson for Forest Green Rovers added: “Forest Green Rovers FC, along with every other football club, deplore the use of racist abuse and language which has no place in our game or our society.

“Nobody should be subjected to the racist abuse that our player Jordon Garrick was back in April and we welcome the sentencing administered by the court.

“We sincerely hope that this sends a strong message to the individual involved in this case and those persons that share a similar view that this behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."