Headbutt footballer sentenced

A SUNDAY-LEAGUE footballer who headbutted a rival player has been ordered to carry out unpaid work after magistrates ruled that such violence is “not a conventional part of a football match”.

Hartlepool man Michael Dorman Bell was playing for the 3 Lions Sports Bar team in a midweek friendly game against Diablo’s when he hit Jonathan Skidmore in the cheek leaving him with a two-inch cut below his eye.

At a previous court appearance he admitted causing actual bodily harm.

The 24-year-old, of Milbank Road, Hartlepool, appeared before Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court where chairman of the bench Geoff Morley punished him with 50 hours unpaid work, a year-long community order, ordered him to pay £150 court costs and £150 compensation to Mr Skidmore.

Mr Morley told Bell: “The disappointing feature here is the use of a headbutt. It’s not a conventional part of a football match, however bad tempered that game may have been.”

But solicitor Adrian Morris, mitigating for Bell, said that after watching Sunday league football this weekend – where Mr Skidmore was playing for another team – people on the sidelines were “surprised that the incident has come this far” especially since the Durham Football Association have taken no action against the defendant.

He said: “It’s a man’s game. However, a line was crossed here.”

The match was being played on the Recreation Ground, in Kingsley Avenue, Hartlepool, on August 3 last year, where problems erupted from the start after the original referee was cancelled and representatives from each team were called upon to officiate the game – with one being assaulted and the other threatened.

Then towards the end of the match, with Diablo’s winning 6-1, Bell took on two players and was brought down by Mr Skidmore, the court heard.

Mr Morris said: “I’m afraid the tie could be deemed ‘friendly’ in name only as tempers were running high throughout.

“In fairness contact had been made with the ball before contact had been made with my client, but he said he had been hacked down.

“Then, what you see happening often in football even at top level, was two people coming together with an exchange of views, and very much out of character and in the heat of the moment he administered that blow. It was over in seconds.”