Football fan cleared of racially abusing Ashley Cole at FA Cup match

A football fan has been found not guilty of racially abusing ITV pundit Ashley Cole during an FA Cup match.

Lee Oscroft, 25, from Kingshill Road, Swindon, was charged with the racially aggravated harassment of former England left back Mr Cole.

Oscroft, wore a black blazer and white open collar shirt and denied calling Mr Cole the “n-word”, which he said was “not in my vocabulary”, before he was found not guilty at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

The charge related to an incident during Swindon Town’s FA Cup clash with Manchester City on January 7 2022, for which former Arsenal and Chelsea player Mr Cole was part of ITV’s broadcasting team.

Oscroft previously pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive words or behaviour which was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

On Monday, he admitted he joined some supporters in shouting abuse at Mr Cole, who was giving punditry on the pitch after the match – but stressed he neither said or heard anything racist.

Oscroft waved his wallet, which he said contained an Arsenal membership card, at the player, called him “Cashley Cole” and swore at him, he told the court.

He said it was a “bit of banter” but added: “I didn’t hear anything that was racially motivated.”

“I can assure everybody I did not use that (racist) word, it’s not a word in my vocabulary,” he said.

“I stand firmly against racism. It is not something I have ever been affiliated with. I strongly disagree with it.”

On January 8 2022, he retweeted a post from Swindon Town which condemned the abuse against Mr Cole at the match, adding that he found the alleged racist slurs “inexcusable”.

He said he followed Arsenal as well as Swindon and abused the pundit because he had left the north London club to play for their west London rivals Chelsea during his playing career.

The prosecution case relied on evidence, given from behind a screen, by paramedic Katherine Ashby who was at the match and claimed she heard Oscroft shout the racist abuse.

The defence called on two match-goers, who both knew the defendant, who were nearby at the time of the incident and denied hearing Oscroft say anything racist.

District Judge Joanna Dickens said she knew that Mr Cole had “on other occasions” been subjected to “horrific” racial abuse which she said had “no place in football”.

She said the only question she had to answer was not whether the n-word was used but whether it was said by Oscroft.

She was “not completely sure” he said it, so found him not guilty, the court heard.

Manchester City won the third round match 4-1.

The trial was adjourned to January 23 at the same court and he could face a football banning order because he was convicted of the lesser charge, which is a public order offence.