Ref headbutt thug banned for life

Liam Johnson pictured leaving Hartlepool Magistrates Court. Below, victim Ronnie Chambers
Liam Johnson pictured leaving Hartlepool Magistrates Court. Below, victim Ronnie Chambers

A FOOTBALL thug who headbutted a referee has been banned from the pitch for life.

Hartlepool man Liam Johnson attacked match official Ronnie Chambers when he was red-carded for using foul language during a Hartlepool Sunday League Division One game between Welfare Athletic and DPM Carpets back in August.

Referee Ronnie Chambers.

Referee Ronnie Chambers.

The 25-year-old was dealt the lifetime ban by the Durham County Football Association – which says he is the first footballer to be given the permanent ban in at least 20 years.

The yob, who was also fined £250 by the FA and told he can appeal against the measure after 10 years,

was also dealt with for the offence yesterday at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court.

Chairman of the bench Keith Gorton sentenced him to a 12-month community order with 12 months supervision, and ordered him to pay £150 compensation to Mr Chambers and £85 court costs.

He told Johnson, a dad-of-two from Romaine Park, Hartlepool: “What makes this offence more serious is the contact in a public place, playing a game of sport and the referee was just doing his job.

“Maybe he wasn’t doing it as well as you think he should have been, but he was doing his job.”

John Topping, secretary of the Durham County FA, added: “It’s the first permanent suspension we have put in place for a long time in this county.

“I’ve been here for 16 years and there’s never been another one, and I think we’d be safe to say there has never been such a serious ban in the last 20 years.

“We have three different types of assault on a referee which carry three different punishments, but this is the most serious of those.

“He received a permanent suspension with no review for a period of 10 years and was fined £250.”

Johnson admitted committing common assault on Sunday, August 19, which left Mr Chambers, a 47-year-old dad-of-two from Blackhall Colliery, with a broken and bloody nose and the game was abandoned just 10 minutes after kick-off.

Alan Davison, prosecuting, previously 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 head-butt 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.