A drinks manufacturer has been forced to withdraw a costly advertising campaign after a North-East drinker complained it glorified football violence.

Last night the makers of Strongbow cider apologised for the drinks mats and confess the advertising campaign had been a "stupid mistake."

Bulmers apologised after the mats appeared in bars in the United States with the claim: ''Helping fuel soccer riots for almost 40 years.''

The firm, based in Hereford, sent teams of staff to scour bars in Florida where the offending mats were spotted.

Bulmers claim they rejected the mats after an advertising agency in the US devised the slogan as a promotion.

A member of its US staff responsible for the error had now ''left the company'' after a small number of the mats made their way into Florida bars, Bulmers said.

''We are just as stunned as everyone else is,'' said a spokesman last night.

''We made every attempt to put the matter right but it was a very stupid mistake.

''It would never happen in this country where we are extremely responsible about how we handle our marketing.''

Bulmers said the the mats appeared in bars about 18 months ago and they immediately made efforts to recover them.

However, the error came to light recently when a North-East tourist found one on a trip to Florida.

Teesside man John Gregory sounded the alarm as soon as he returned home following a trip to Disneyland.

Widower John, 57, who lives in Redcar, said he was stunned by the logo and phoned the company as soon as he arrived home.

He added: "They told me their American admen had put forward ideas for a campaign and this was one such idea.

"Bulmers rejected it but found someone had gone ahead anyway."

The company spokesman added: "It was a total accident that some of the mats were manufactured.

"It was a complete error of judgement by one of our people over there who, as a result, has now left the company.

"In no way would we ever condone football violence."