Barrow defender James Cotterill was sentenced to four months in prison
for smashing a rival player’s jaw during an FA Cup match.
It is thought to be the first time in recent history a football player
has been jailed in England for an offence on the pitch.
Cotterill pleaded guilty to punching Bristol Rovers striker Sean
Rigg, causing him GBH during a first-round match in
Half-an-hour into the game Cotterill fractured Mr
Rigg’s jaw in two places with a left-hook (see the video by clicking here).
It must be held together with metal plates for the rest of his life.
Television cameras captured the off-the-ball assault, which was shown
that evening to millions of viewers on the BBC’s Match of the Day
Passing sentence, Judge Robert Brown said: "The courts have for a long time now made it absolutely clear that this sort of violence on the field of play cannot and will not be tolerated. And for this kind of off-the-ball incident a custodial sentence is inevitable."
Judge Brown said he took into account Cotterill’s decision to plead guilty at the first opportunity, the remorse he had expressed for the assault and his previous good record on the pitch, when passing sentence.
He said: "I accept that this incident was completely out of character as far as you are concerned."
The defender made no reaction as he was sent down.
His mother and a young female friend or family member, who were in the public gallery, both started crying after the sentence was read out.
The only other football player in living memory to be jailed for an assault during a match was Scottish player Duncan Ferguson in 1995.
Ferguson, who was playing for Rangers, headbutted Raith Rovers’ John McStay during a game in 1994.
He was sentenced to three months in prison.
Cotterill’s defence counsel, Peter Kennedy, said: "He is thoroughly ashamed for his family, former club and his profession."
Kennedy described the punch as "a moment of folly" that took place in "the heat of the moment".
Although you can’t really grumble with someone getting sent down for assault, do you think that the outcome would have been the same if it was a player from a top club like Manchester United or Arsenal? [Mof Gimmers]