Red-card footballer admits headbutting ref

Liam Johnson pictured leaving Hartlepool Magistrates Court.

Liam Johnson pictured leaving Hartlepool Magistrates Court.

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AN AMATEUR footballer has pleaded guilty to headbutting a referee who sent him off.

Goalkeeper Liam Johnson attacked Ronnie Chambers after he was red-carded for using foul language during the Hartlepool Sunday League Division One game between Welfare Athletic and DPM Carpets.

Mr Chambers was left with a broken and bloody nose and the game was immediately abandoned just 10 minutes after kick-off.

Twenty-five-year-old Johnson – who now faces a lifetime ban from the “game he loves” – appeared at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and admitted committing common assault on Sunday, August 19.

Alan Davison, prosecuting, told justices: “The referee sent him off for using foul language 10 minutes into the game.

“His reaction was to approach the referee and stand face to face with him and then headbutt him, causing him to have a bloody nose and end the game.

“In interview he said he’d sworn at the referee after being sent off and reacted angrily. He fully admitted assaulting him.”

Machine operative Johnson, who is also a time-served joiner, was last in trouble with the law three years ago for a wounding offence after hitting a man with a bottle.

Mitigating, Adrian Morris said his client, who has suffered with a stammer all of his life, has played football since being a small child and was angry because he felt he was the victim of a foul.

He added: “The match started and within the first few minutes the opposition had a corner and the ball was crossed over.

“He was the goalkeeper and he jumped and caught the ball.

“His feet weren’t on the ground and one of the opposition ran into him and made contact with him below the hips and caused him to rotate in mid-air.

“He landed on his shoulder and jarred his neck and to his credit kept hold of the ball.

“Had the ref actually seen what had happened, and you would assume that he didn’t, he would have given a foul.”

He added: “His team mates remonstrated and there was some bad language from them but the ref wasn’t going to change his mind. The ball was thrown back out to play and my client went to remonstrate with the referee.”

Due to his stammer and not being able to express himself, Johnson “blurted out profanities at the referee”, suggesting that he himself was lucky that he had not been taken off the pitch in an ambulance due to the bad tackle.

Mr Morris said it was then that the ref brandished the red card and “to his shame” he headbutted Mr Chambers, a 47-year-old dad-of-two, from Blackhall Colliery.

He told the court: “He now anticipates that he is probably going to be banned from playing the game he loves for life when he appears before Durham FA.

“He can’t turn back the clock and he deeply regrets what he did.

“He is even, off his own bat, seeking anger management help.”

Chairman of the bench Peter Heron adjourned sentencing dad-of-two Johnson, of Romaine Park, West View, Hartlepool, until the Probation Service has carried out a pre-sentence report.

See reaction to the case in Wednesday’s Hartlepool Mail and Peterlee Star.