Footballer jailed after driving 4x4 at referee

An amateur footballer has been sentenced to 24 weeks in jail week after driving his car at a referee in a Sunday League game.

Joseph Rimmer, 28, drove his 4x4 vehicle on to the pitch causing referee David Harkness and players to flee, Liverpool Crown Court heard this week.

Rimmer, who was playing for Lonsdale against Harrington in the Southport & District Sunday League on 14 February, was about to be dismissed for a dangerous tackle.

But, before Harkness could even produce a red card, Rimmer left the field and headed for his car, telling the ref that he was going to run him over.

He then drove the 4x4 across two pitches, causing players to scatter, before performing "doughnuts" as Harkness hid in the goalmouth.

Prosecuting counsel Derek Jones told the court that the incident took place after Rimmer's appeals for a foul were rejected by the referee.

"The defendant then showed dissent by swearing at the referee who awarded a free kick against him," said Jones, who alleged that as referee Harkness reached for his pocket to issue a card, Rimmer threatened him, saying "'If you book me or send me off, you know what will happen.'"

"But before he could be shown the red card", Jones continued, "the defendant stated, 'I'm going to run you down', then walked off the pitch."

"He then walked across a neighbouring pitch as another game was going on. When players shouted to the defendant to get off the pitch, he told them, 'Watch me run the f****** ref over'."

At this point, Rimmer got into his Range Rover and drove on to the pitch towards the referee, the court heard. Witnesses reported that people reacted with "panic and fear", while some had to run or arch their backs to avoid Rimmer's car, which he drove around in circles on the pich.

The court heard that when the car finally came to a stop, the defendant got out, made a gun shape with his hand and shouted towards  Harkness: "I'm going to shoot you."

Judge Brian Lewis, who also banned Rimmer from driving for 12 months, said that it was a "disgraceful incident" and that the message that it "will not be tolerated" must be "absolutely unequivocal".

"I do not accept it was simply conduct to get the game abandoned," said Lewis. "You were driving the car to frighten people, terrify them."

Mr Harkness has stood down after 35 years as a referee as a result of the ordeal, saying in his witness statement that he has "not slept through fear that the defendant will find out where I live and carry out his threat to shoot me."

Rimmer pleaded guilty to affray at an October hearing, saying he was "ashamed" of his actions.

What do you think?

Have you ever heard of anything like this on the football field?  Is this just an isolated incident or are referees forced to put with threatening behaviour all too often?

Have your say in our comments section below.

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