A FOOTBALL fan who sang obscene abuse at rival fans claimed it wasn't racist - because they were calling him Welsh, a court heard.

Bristol City supporter Matthew Leggett chanted racist comments at opposition supporters during an FA Cup tie at Ashton Gate.

He said he called rivals 'p***s' because they sang "you're Welsh and you know you are" at City fans.

He pleaded guilty to a racially aggravated public order offence during the Robins' defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 17.

Leggett was suspended from Ashton Gate immediately after the incident.

The club said it was 'disappointed' at the court's decision not to issue a full baning order.

But they say it operates a 'zero tolerance' policy and the process to formally ban Leggett from Ashton Gate is underway.

The 27-year-old factory worker, who lives at home with his parents in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court.

The court heard a family sitting in the Dolman Stand heard Leggett shouting racist slurs from a few rows behind them during the match.

Leggett was fined but avoided a Football Banning Order which would have forbidden him from attending a game for a minimum of three years.

Prosecutor Kate Burnham-Davies said fans became aware of a lone male voice shouting: "You're all p***s, you're all p***s."

One fan approached the defendant and warned him to stop or he would report him to a steward.

However, rather than heed the warning, Leggett told the witness he should be sitting in the family stand, saying: "Your kids shouldn't be here, this is our stand.

"You should be sitting over there. It's the same as them calling us Welsh. I'm not racist."

The family gave a description of Leggett to a steward and he was removed from his seat.

In a witness statement, one family member said she had been called a p**i when she was a child.

She said she had hoped those times had passed before the grim reminder had "ruined a family day out" at Bristol City's home ground.

"He needs to know that language like that is unacceptable and hurtful. We were on a family day out and it was ruined," she said.

When interviewed, Leggett justified his chanting by saying he was talking about "foreign people" and didn't mean to offend anyone.

He claimed he had been to Birmingham and seen a lot of Pakistani people lived there, and the racist abuse was in response to Wolves fans' chants of "you're Welsh and you know you are".

Leggett said he couldn't remember saying the word 'p***s' and regretted the chant as soon as he said it.

He claimed he had had three or four pints at the time.

Defending Leggett, Mark Linehan said his client was "immature in his understanding" of racism.

"He is immature in his understanding of the impact of his offending," he said.

''There is a need for education on the impact of this language.

"He accepts that he said the most repulsive of the comments in the response to the 'Welsh' chants. That cannot be a comeback in this case."

Mr Linehan added: "He [Leggett] recognises the wider impact beyond the family that heard his chants."

The court heard that Leggett had been supporting Bristol City since he was 11 years old and had no similar offences on his record.

The magistrates decided not to make the Football Banning Order based on the belief Leggett would not reoffend at a football match.

The Bristol City fan was fined £325 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Passing down his sentence, magistrate Craig Pocock said: "As you know, this has no place in football or indeed in society.

"We've taken into account your mitigation and read your letter and we're not going to make the order on this occasion because we do not feel there is any likelihood of reocurrence.

"Any repetition of any bad language at a football match and you will be back."

The decision not to issue the banning order comes in the same week some England players were racially abused in Montenegro during England's European Championship qualifier.

In a statement on March 30, managing director at Ashton Gate Stadium Mark Kelly said: "We are surprised and disappointed by the court's decision not to issue a full stadium banning order.

"Ashton Gate has a zero tolerance of this kind of behaviour and the supporter was immediately suspended from our stadium whilst the judicial process ran its course.

"A formal banning process from Ashton Gate is now underway and the supporter remains suspended until that takes effect."