Footballer avoids jail for headbutting his own goalkeeper for letting in six goals

August 20, 2016 | by | 0 Comments

A footballer who headbutted his own goalkeeper after their team went SIX nil down has been spared jail.

Roofer Lee Bourke, 21, knocked out goalie Niall Cowman’s two front teeth for letting in a flood of goals during a five-a-side game.

Lee Bourke (SWNS)

Lee Bourke (SWNS)

Mr Cowman, who had known Bourke for several years, was between the sticks as their side went 6-0 down in the game at BKL astro turf pitches in Studley, Warks.

A court heard Bourke made comments towards the keeper who took off his gloves and threw them at him before saying: “You ginger t**t, you go in goal then.”

Bourke then walked over to Mr Cowman and headbutted him causing him to fall to the floor bleeding from his mouth.

Bourke, of Redditch, Worcs., pleaded guilty to assaulting his teammate by causing him actual bodily harm at Warwick Crown Court.

But he was spared jail when he was handed a 32-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months on Wednesday (17/8).

The footballer was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and told to pay Mr Cowman £1,500 in compensation as well as £100 court costs.

Sentencing Bourke, Judge Abbas Mithani QC, said: “It is extraordinary that, in a game which requires good sportsmanship, tempers can become so raised that one player feels he can inflict gratuitous violence on another.

“Your behaviour was appalling. It was an unprovoked attack. No matter what he said to you, the victim had done nothing to justify your attack on him.

“It is often said when teams are losing that it is just a game.

“It is a sad reflection that a reaction like yours brings the sport and those who play it into disrepute.

“There is very little that can be said in mitigation about the circumstances of the offence, but I take into account that you appear to have shown genuine remorse for the appalling way in which you behaved.

“There is little to be served by imposing a short sentence of immediate custody.”


The court heard the incident took place during a five-a-side game at Studley Sports Centre in July last year.

Prosecutor Justin Jarmola said: “There was a gap of about 20 feet between them, and the defendant went over to him and headbutted him, and he fell to the floor bleeding from his mouth.”

Mr Cowman had two of his front teeth knocked out by the blow and also suffered a cut to his lip and damage to a dental bridge he already had.

He was taken to hospital where the teeth were glued back in but he is still having on-going dental treatment.

The court heard the referee, who was a former police officer, immediately abandoned the game and the goalkeeper was taken to hospital.

Bourke went to Redditch police station the following day and put forward a “pre-emptive self-defence” when he was interviewed by officers.

Judge Mithani was told Bourke was a self-employed roofer who had no previous convictions.

Nicholas Berry, defending, said the incident took place “in the course of a competition where tempers were raised”.

He added: “There’s certainly been a great deal of inconvenience to this other young man as a result of the defendant’s actions but the tooth was replaced.

“Your Honour faces a stark choice of whether to send this 21-year-old to jail straight away or not.”

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