A footballer who headbutted an opponent, sparking a mass brawl, has been jailed – the second time he has been convicted of violence on the pitch.
Craig Haythorne, aged 30, headbutted a player after being shown a red card.
Sheffield Crown Court heard his actions led to spectators from the home crowd wading in on the pitch and a mass brawl breaking out.
Referee Melvyn Scarborough told police: “In 18 years as a referee I have never witnessed anything so violent.”
Trouble flared during a Sheffield and Hallamshire Sunday Senior Challenge Cup match between Punchbowl, from Sheffield and AFP from Rotherham, said Stephanie Hollis, prosecuting.
Haythorne was dribbling down the wing when he was tackled by 23-year-old Matthew Savage and brought to the ground.
The ref deemed the tackle late but not malicious and gave a free kick to Haythorne’s team - AFP - but as he got up Haythorne confronted Mr Savage and kicked him.
“It was a deliberate and unprovoked action,” said Miss Hollis.
Players began arguing and Haythorne was shown a red card.
He then went face-to-face with Mr Savage and headbutted him in the face, the court heard.
Haythorne, of Bowden Wood Drive, Waltheof, who was jailed for six months, received a six-month suspended jail term in June 2009 after a late tackle left an opponent with a calf wound that required 56 stitches.
Dermot Hughes, defending, said the game had been a ‘keenly contested’ cup match in a prestigious competition and Haythorne came in for special attention from opposing teams because he was such a good player.
Judge Roger Keen said: “People who use this type of violence in the sporting arena must understand that prison sentences will follow.”