A youth football chairman has been spared jail after travelling almost 60 miles to meet who he thought was a 13-year-old girl in Southampton.

Lee Swain, 55, was sentenced after he travelled from his home in Willowmead Close, Woking, to Antelope Park, Thornhill to meet the teen.

He had started talking to someone he thought was a teenager on social media - before arranging to meet the girl in Southampton. The decoy was in fact a police officer.

At Southampton Crown Court he was given a 10-month sentence suspended for two years after admitting attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16. 

READ MORE: Woking youth football chairman drove to Southampton to meet teenager

He must complete 180 hours of unpaid work, a 35-day sex offenders programme, 30 days of rehabilitation activity and pay a £450 victim surcharge.

He must register as a sex offender for ten years and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order for the same period.

Swain was barred from working with children or vulnerable adults following the offence on October 25.

He was a senior figure at Golsworth Park Rangers, a Woking-based youth football club, until he was blacklisted by the FA following his arrest.

READ MORE: Child sex offences investigation: Man charged and three arrested

He was caught as a result of a joint operation between Hampshire Constabulary and the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

Detective Constable Simon Wyeth from Hampshire Constabulary’s Western Area Crime Team led the investigation.

He said: “In a day and age where social media is so prevalent in young people’s lives, and the ease in which messages can be sent by people unknown to them, it is incredibly important that we, as the police, are in a position to investigate if we believe that criminal offences have taken place during these exchanges. 

“Throughout the investigation, we have worked closely with SEROCU in order to develop evidence against an individual who had every intention of meeting who they believed to be a child in order to commit sexual offences against them. 

Daily Echo: Southampton Crown CourtSouthampton Crown Court

“Despite the messages making clear the girl was underage, Swain continued to send sexual content.

"Thankfully, as part of this investigation no real children were in danger however Swain committed a serious offence in that he believed the person he was communicating with was a child.

“Our teams are committed and will continue to work hard to ensure that children across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are not exposed to sexual predators or violence.”

Southampton Magistrates’ Court was previously told how Swain was a man of “good character” who had separated from his wife two years before the offences.

He previously had a gambling addiction and “does stuff he regrets” when he is low, his solicitor Michael McGoldrick said.

Surrey County Football Association declined to comment.