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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Ex-soccer minder ban overturned
Neil MacNamara
Neil MacNamara admitted setting off a fire alarm
A Cardiff City fan who set off a fire alarm at a rival team's hotel the night before a match has won an appeal against a five-year ban from matches, after arguing the offence was not football-related.

MacNamara, a former bodyguard of Cardiff City owner Sam Hammam, was handed the ban in August after admitting setting off a fire alarm at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

QPR players were staying at the hotel ahead of their play-off final against Cardiff, and some of the players were woken up.

The 39-year-old from Nantgarw, south Wales, had admitted criminal damage and making a false and malicious alarm of fire.

Last month, magistrates in Abergavenny gave the five-year ban saying the offence was linked to the match, but MacNamara has successfully appealed against this ruling.

MacNamara said he had set off the alarm on 25 May this year in frustration after a row with his girlfriend.

Neil MacNamara with Sam Hammam
Neil MacNamara was a bodyguard for Cardiff owner Sam Hammam

His solicitor, Richard Twomlow, told the court that the prosecution had not proved the incident was football-related.

"There's no evidence to prove that he tried to find out where the QPR team were staying," he said.

Under the Football Spectators Act 1989, courts have the power to prevent people from going to football matches.

But, at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge David Wynn Morgan said he could see no evidence for the ban.

The restriction had covered matches in Wales, England and abroad - Macnamara was also ordered to pay a 1,000 in fines and costs.

As a result of McNamara's antics at the hotel in Newport, 200 people guests who had to leave their rooms, but none of the QPR players were among those guests.

The following day, Cardiff won the game 1-0 in extra time to secure promotion to Division One.

Celtic Manor Hotel
QPR players stayed at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport

The court heard how MacNamara was seen on CCTV at the hotel setting off the fire alarm and police later discovered he had booked into the hotel under a false name.

Previously, he worked as a personal minder to Bluebirds owner Sam Hammam on his walkabouts around the club's Ninian Park pitch.

But he was sacked when he was jailed for six months for possessing a CS gas canister and driving a stolen 22,000 sports car.

He was given a football banning order for a year for using threatening words and behaviour in March 2000.

A spokesman for Cardiff City said: "Neil MacNamara is no longer anything to do with this football club. He was sacked last year following his conviction."

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