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SCAPEGOAT ENGLAND FAN 'IN PUB FIGHT' He's held over fracas after Euro 2004 game.

Byline: PAUL MALLEY

A MIDLAND football fan convicted of hooliganism during Euro 2000 has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a man in a pub following last month's England v France match.

Father-of-two Mark Forrester, an Aston Villa supporter from Walsall, was the only person jailed during the soccer tournament in Belgium four years ago under its fast-track legal system.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison but was released after a month - and then embarked on a lengthy campaign to overturn his conviction.

Only last month, Mr Forrester, 37, now a spokesman for the group Justice for Football Fans Abroad, revealed that the battle to clear his name was continuing through an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

And he hit out at the justice served by the Portuguese during Euro 2004.

'Every time there is a large football tournament and England fans are involved in any kind of trouble, the first thing the authorities do is try to make an example of one football supporter,' he said.

But now Mr Forrester has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a man during a fracas at a Birmingham pub following England's opening Euro 2004 match against France on June 13.

He has been released on police bail until August.

Mr Forrester was unavailable for comment last night and neither was his alleged victim, who lives in Great Barr, Birmingham.

But a spokesman for West Midlands Police confirmed that a man was arrested on suspicion of assault following an incident at The Towers pub in Walsall Road, Great Barr.

In 2000, police officers in a Belgian court accused Mr Forrester of being a riot ringleader.

Police spotter Eric De Roos claimed he saw the Birmingham man causing trouble at the Grand Place in Brussels at 2.15pm on the day violence broke out.

But the soccer fan said he did not set off from Ostend - 70 miles away - until 1.30pm. And he was not seen on any video footage of the trouble.

Last month, Mr Forrester warned two Midland football fans who were arrested in Portugal for hooliganism that they faced a long legal battle to clear their names.

Aston Villa supporter John Parkes, 19, a Birmingham University student from Dudley, was given a suspended sentence.

Blues soccer fan Gary Mann, 47, originally from Birmingham and now working as a fireman in Faversham, Kent, was jailed for two years for rioting after clashes with police in the Portuguese holiday resort of Albufeira.

Mr Forrester said: 'It seems the fan who was jailed for two years would not have had time to put up a proper defence, which is what happened to me.

'It is a long, hard slog clearing your name. My ordeal completely changed my life. I lost my job and was out of work for 12 months.

'I would like to go to America to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary next year but because the conviction still hangs over me I don't think I'll get a visa.'

Mr Forrester's dad Carl was in Portugal following England's progress in the tournament and working with the Football Supporters' Federation, giving out advice and help to fans.

But Mr Forrester stayed behind because he feared it would bring back too many bad memories.

CAPTION(S):

ARRESTED: Mark Forrester was allegedly involved in a fracas at a pub after the England's Euro 2004 match against France
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2004
Words:565
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