Female football fan becomes first woman in Britain to be banned from matches
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A football fan has scored an own goal by becoming the first woman in Britain to be banned from all organised matches.
Abbie-Leigh Reay from Merseyside first got into trouble for lobbing a flare at a referee after her team, Tranmere Rovers, lost to Forest Green Rovers back in January.
Thankfully, the flare - which landed near ref Lee Swabey and Forest Green goalkeeper Luke McGee - didn't cause any injuries.
However, the 23-year-old was ordered to appear before Sefton Magistrates' Court for her actions after being stopped by police as she left Prenton Park stadium.
At the hearing, Reay professed her innocence, telling the court that she threw the flare in a 'panic' after it landed near her.
"We had moved a couple of seats in front of these lads but they rocked down and that's when the flare has come and it was smoking at my feet,'' she said.
''Joel [brother] was on one side and my partner was on the other side and the first thing I thought was to get it away. I threw it directly onto the football pitch.
"I then turned around and told the lads to ‘f*** off'. I've been going to Tranmere all my life and I hate things like this."
But ultimately she was found guilty after CCTV footage showed her appearing to 'dance' as the object hit the pitch.
She jokingly commented online after the incident: "Just hope I don't get banned.''
In an ironic turn of events, she has been banned - and now can't attend any 'regulated' footy matches for three years. According to the Daily Mail, the Aldi worker has also been fined £250 and ordered to pay £654 in costs.
When asking if she could still watch her 14-year-old brother play in league games, District Judge Paul Healey said she'd have to check with police first.
Speaking about the sentencing, he said: "I have based my decision on the findings that you did throw the flare and on the basis that it was a deliberate act to throw it on the pitch.
"It took place at a football match which makes it more serious. I have seen the footage, you are at the front of the stand, the stadium is full. There are a lot of people in your immediate vicinity.
"You throw the flare on to the pitch which puts people on the pitch at risk.
"No one is struck but there is a risk and as a result of your actions, police and stewards had to intervene. There was a large crowd which put the police and the stewards in a difficult situation."
Healey continued: "When somebody is convicted of an offence under the Football Offences Act, it has to be considered whether it's necessary to make a football banning order.
"I have heard the comments from the prosecution, I have seen the footage and I have heard what you have said.
"I accept that you pleaded not guilty, that you instinctively threw it on the pitch as a safety measure but that was rejected at trial.
"I could not see any sign of a smoke trail before you threw it onto the pitch and then there was your behaviour afterwards.
"You have no previous convictions and there is no evidence that you are associated with any other disorder at football matches but I do believe that someone who behaves in this way presents a serious risk to players, stewards and spectators.
"An order is necessary to avoid any risk whatsoever of this happening again."