A fuming amateur footballer has been jailed after he punched a referee who sent him off during a five-a-side game.
Thomas Ward, 21, was shown a yellow card shortly after the match started and kicked the ball at ref Neil Parkinson, 43, in retaliation.
He was then sent off but after the final whistle he confronted Mr Parkinson and demanded an explanation for the sending off.
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Ward then launched a brutal attack on Mr Parkinson and punched him so hard it broke the ref’s eye-socket..
On Thursday, Ward, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., was caged for four months after pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Ordering Ward to also pay £400 compensation to Mr Parkinson, Judge Paul Glenn called him ‘hot-headed’.
He added: “Referees in junior football are often unpaid or paid very little and they very often perform their role simply because they love the game.
“Without referees giving up their time, games can’t take place but, by performing their role, they sometimes have to encounter abuse.
“Thankfully usually verbal rather than physical.
“Not so long ago the FA launched a Respect campaign which clearly happened to pass you by.
“The injury in this case, and the charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, I regard as serious.
“This wasn’t a sustained attack, it was a single blow. The blow might not have been premeditated but you chose to confront this referee at the end of the game.”
Earlier Fiona Cortese, prosecuting, told the court that the attack, at Goals Soccer Centre in Sneyd Green, Stoke, forced his victim to take time off work.
Mr Parkinson collapsed following the attack and was rushed to hospital, where a CT scan showed the fracture under a nasty black eye.
Ms Cortese said: “He [Ward] was unhappy with the decision, picked up the football and kicked it straight towards Mr Parkinson.
“It hit his right side and no pain or injury was caused. Mr Parkinson sent the defendant off the pitch for his behaviour and there were no other issues.”
“When the match was finished, he challenged Mr Parkinson who explained his decision before turning away.
“He saw the defendant throw a punch towards him which connected with his left eye. He felt dazed and fell to the ground.
“When interviewed by police 11 days later, the defendant said he thought the foul decision was wrong and he never intended to hit Mr Parkinson when he kicked the ball at him. He also claimed he punched him in self-defence but did not hit him hard.”
Nicholas Tatlow, defending, said the defendant was ‘hardworking’ and had served time in the Army.
He said: “He was sent off and sat on the sidelines brooding before going to confront Mr Parkinson at the end of the match and that’s quite unfavourable. He knows and understands that.”
The court heard Ward has no previous convictions but received a caution and fixed penalty notice for public disorder offences in 2012.