Footballer knocked out ref, court hears

A FOOTBALLER banned for life for punching a referee so hard he needed facial surgery has been spared a jail term.

A FOOTBALLER banned for life for punching a referee so hard he needed facial surgery has been spared a jail term.

Jonathan Futter, 22, was playing for the West Row Gunners, based in the village near Mildenhall, when he punched referee Samuel Douglas with such force he blacked out, Bury St Edmunds magistrates heard.

When the 19-year-old official regained consciousness, he found a tooth had gone through his lip, which needed eight stitches to repair.

Futter, of Peterhouse Close, Mildenhall, admitted assaulting the referee at the derby match with Exning on March 20 but was given an 18-week suspended sentence.

Sarah Jane Atkins, prosecuting, described how the referee approached Futter to issue him with a second yellow card when the player began remonstrating with him.

She said: “He (the referee) asked him to calm down and he explained to him what he had seen. He turned and Futter then took a few steps away - then he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned back and Futter punched him in the face.”

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She also told magistrates Futter had a previous record of violence, including convictions for assault.

Kevin McCarthy, mitigating, urged the magistrates to take a sympathetic view of the young man - highlighting his candid and prompt full admission of guilt.

“One blow delivered in anger and then regret 30 seconds apart - 30 seconds which have not just had an impact on the referee but also on my client.

“Since this incident he has lived under the shadow of a custodial sentence. He is a young man who is totally remorseful and embarrassed. We all want more than our worst 30 seconds to define our lives.”

In addition to the 18 week jail term suspended for two years, the footballer was told to pay Mr Douglas £500 compensation, complete 100 hours community service and pay £60 costs.

Speaking after the sentence, Martin Head, secretary to the Suffolk FA, said at a separate hearing it had ruled Futter's behaviour “totally unacceptable” and imposed the ban. He pledged that similar behaviour from any player would be handled “very severely”.

Simon Long, Suffolk FA referee development officer, said the case was “extreme” but similar behaviour was deterring future referees at grass roots level: “I don't think this is a just a football problem it is wider problem in society with people not showing enough respect to those in authority.”

Speaking after the sentence Futter expressed his apologies to Mr Douglas, and to the fans who witnessed the attack, and indicated he would appeal the lifetime FA ban at the earliest opportunity in 2013.

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