SAINTS Trust chairman Nick Illingsworth has been “discriminated against and victimised” by the club, the Independent Football Ombudsman has found.

The ruling comes after the supporters’ chief complained about being refused the right to buy a season ticket for the current campaign at St Mary’s.

Illingsworth approached the IFO in a bid to gain an explanation for last summer’s decision and also earn his reinstatement as a season ticket holder.

The ombudsman investigated, considering evidence from both sides, and upheld the complaint, concluding that Illingsworth had been “singled out for special treatment” by the club.

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In his damning report released this week, Prof Derek Fraser also suggested that “perhaps this is to set an example and to deter other critics of the club’s management.”

He recommended that Saints apologise to Illingsworth and reinstate him as a season ticket holder.

Prof Fraser stressed the club had co-operated fully with his investigation, although they had not supplied a satisfactory reason for their stance.

In his report, he said: “It is not possible to discern the real reason for the treatment of the complainant, which the club admits is unique.

“Club officials stated that the club had chosen to demonstrate its powers on this occasion and it would appear that a similar motive explained recent disputes over press accreditation and access for photographers.

“The IFO is left with no alternative other than to draw the inference that it can only be the complainant’s roles as chair of the trust and prominent supporter activist which have caused him to be singled out for this special treatment."

The Daily Echo contacted Saints yesterday, but they declined to comment on the matter.

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