A PROPERTY developer has been caught up in a police operation aimed at stopping suspected soccer hooligans from travelling to Euro 2004 - despite never before having been convicted of football-related violence.

Paul Osborne, 35, has never been arrested for violence or disorder at a football match.

Neither has he ever been at a match with anyone else who has been arrested.

He has never even been booked while playing the game himself.

But Southampton magistrates have banned him from attending any football match for the next two years.

Mr Osborne, managing director of a property development company, was stopped by police as he was boarding a flight to Faro, Portugal, at Southampton International Airport on Thursday.

In the lead-up to Euro 2004 in Portugal, police officers have been targeting all flights to Spain and Portugal with a view to checking people who may cause problems during football matches.

Mr Osborne, of Winfrith Way, Nursling, was travelling with 11 other people to stay at a villa belonging to one of the group. All members of the party were questioned but, while Mr Osborne was kept behind, the rest boarded the flight and are now in Portugal.

Under the Football Spectators' Act 1989, Mr Osborne, who has numerous previous convictions for violence, had his ticket and passport seized and was ordered to appear before the magistrates' court.

The act allows magistrates to issue a ban if they have reasonable grounds to believe that doing so will help prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with a football match.

Mr Osborne, who has three children and another due in eight weeks, told magistrates he was going to Portugal for a week to play golf and that he didn't even have a ticket for any Euro 2004 match.

"The majority of the group were going for the football but on this occasion I was not," he told the court.

"It is so expensive and I have got a baby due in a matter of weeks so I could not justify spending two to three hundred quid for a football match."

But PC Gavin Pointon, football intelligence officer for Hampshire Constabulary, told magistrates he had reason to believe Mr Osborne might cause problems during Euro 2004 matches.

"I believe that by Mr Osborne travelling to Portugal, violence would occur," he said.

He then told the court about the most recent of Mr Osborne's ten previous convictions in 2002 - an affray for which he served six months in prison.

Believing a man had flashed at his girlfriend, Mr Osborne drove at him, jamming him against a wall. He reversed and drove at him again, before getting out of the car and punching him unconscious.

PC Pointon added that there is a police intelligence report linking Mr Osborne to what they regard as a football-related offence.

According to an unknown source, in April 2003 he was involved in a fight with a man in the Maybush Public House, where a football match was being screened. The report does not state that it was football-related.

Following the ruling yesterday, Mr Osborne said he was totally shocked and felt the decision was unfair.

"It is totally unjust and totally out of the blue," he said. "I have never had a problem at a football match before."

He added: "I am disappointed that I am not on holiday at the moment. I thought I was going to be playing golf this weekend. Instead I am going to spend the weekend crying in my beer."