first British professional player to be jailed for an incident during
a match was Duncan Ferguson of Rangers. In a Scottish League match
at Ibrox between Rangers and Raith Rovers on Saturday 16th April 1994
Ferguson head-butted visiting defender John McStay. Although not picked up by the
match officials it didn't escape the cameras and he was charged with
assault. He was found guilty and with three similar convictions to his
name (he had previously crossed swords with the odd policeman, fisherman
and Hearts supporter!) he was sentenced to 3 months in prison. He
eventually served 44 days in Barlinnie prison by which time he had become
an Everton player.
South of the border the first
jailing of a player because of incident during a game was in January 2007
when Barrow defender
James Cotterill was sentenced to four months in prison for causing
grievous bodily harm to Bristol Rovers forward Sean Rigg. In an FA
Cup First Round tie between the clubs at Barrow's Holker Street ground on
Saturday November 11th 2006 Cotterill had punched the Rovers player after
half an hour, breaking his jaw in two places. As in the Ferguson incident
the match officials had not seen the offence although Match of the Day
cameras had. When 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."
In 1995 Eric Cantona narrowly
escapes prison but receives an eight month ban from playing after
attacking a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park.
New technologies bring with
them new ways of falling foul of the authorities. In January 2011 Ryan
Babel became the first player to be punished for comments made on
Twitter. The Liverpool striker
not too pleased with two decisions made by ref Howard Webb in the 1-0 FA
Cup defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday January 9th
2011. In what was Kenny Dalglish's first match back in charge of Liverpool
the referee awarded United a penalty in the second minute, from which the
winning goal was scored, and half an hour later sent off Steven Gerrard.
Babel criticised the ref and posted a link to a doctored picture of Webb -
wearing a Manchester United shirt! Babel admitted an FA charge of improper
conduct and was fined £10,000 and was warned about his future conduct.
In December 2003 Rio
Ferdinand was banned from football and fined £50,000 for 'failure or
refusal to take a drugs test'. The Manchester United player had been asked
to take a test on September 23rd at the clubs' Carrington training ground
but left without providing a urine sample. He claimed that he forgot as he
was pre-occupied with moving house - and went shopping instead! After an
unsuccessful appeal the 8 month ban ran from the end of January to the end
of September 2004 and in addition to missing domestic competition the ban
included international football and so he was absent from Euro 2004 in Portugal.
Saturday January 6th 1990 was a
great day for Cardiff City. Their FA Cup Third Round tie against Queens
Park Rangers saw them bank record club record receipts for a match at Ninian Park - £50,517.75. Well, they would have banked it on Monday but
sadly for Cardiff's bank balance thieves broke into the safe over the
weekend and pinched the lot!
When Manchester United face
either Manchester City or Leeds United highly-charged matches are always
in prospect, perhaps no more so than when Roy
Keane of Manchester United came up against Alf-Inge Haaland.
On Saturday September 27th 1997 Leeds beat
Manchester United 1-0 in a Premier League match at Elland Road. Late in
the match Roy Keane injured himself when attempting to tackle Alf-Inge Haaland.
The Norwegian then stood over the injured Keane, criticising him for
the tackle and accusing him of feigning injury. The Irishman had in fact
suffered a cruciate-ligament injury - which ended his playing season - and
was booked as he was helped off the pitch. The two players were next on
opposing sides in April 2001 when Haaland had moved to Manchester City.
This time Keane was sent off for a savage knee-high tackle on the
Norwegian which was seen as an act of revenge. The FA handed out a
three-match ban and £5000 fine to Keane. However matters escalated in
2002 when Keane admitted in his autobiography that the tackle had been a
deliberate attempt to injure Haaland following their clash in 1997. He
later said 'He got his just rewards. My attitude is an eye for
an eye.' Keane was charged with bringing the game into disrepute and
this time received a five-match ban and £150,000 fine.
three matches remaining of the 1964/65 season Chelsea were still in
with a chance of the League championship. All three matches were in the
north-east - at Liverpool, Burnley and Blackpool - and as all the matches
were to be played in just a week the Londoners decided to base themselves
in Blackpool. Big mistake. After losing 2-0 at Liverpool on Monday 19th
April 1965 their next match wasn't until the Saturday, and boredom set in.
Despite a curfew eight Chelsea players snuck out of the
for a night on the town. When Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty was informed
by a night porter that a fire-escape door had been left open and a number
of Chelsea players were believed to be missing the Doc, in a fluffy white
dressing-gown, sat in wait by the door. The 'Blackpool Eight' arrived back
just before 4am. The following day all eight - first teamers Barry
Bridges, George Graham, Marvin Hinton, John Hollins, Eddie McCreadie, Bert
Murray, Terry Venables and reserve player Joe Fascione - were sent home
and didn't play in the Saturday match. Chelsea lost that match 6-2 at
Burnley and their championship hopes were over. So was the punishment the
act of an incredibly brave manager - or a stupid one?
The 'honour' of being the first
player to play a League match while wearing an electronic tag went to
Ipswich Town defender Gary Croft. After serving a quarter of a four
month sentence for driving while disqualified and perverting the course of
justice he was released from prison and required to be tagged. Shortly
afterwards he was named as a substitute for Ipswich against Swindon Town
in a First Division match at Portman Road on Saturday 15th January 2000.
With the tag clearly visible on his left ankle he came on as a 71st minute
substitute to help Ipswich to a 3-0 victory. The tag came with a curfew
from 7pm to 7am so no evening matches in the early weeks after his release
but later in the season an
untagged Croft appeared at Wembley in Ipswich's 4-2 play-off final victory
The first player to appear in the
Premier League with a tag was Jermaine Pennant who had been
released from prison after 31 days of a three-month sentence for drink
driving, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance. Ref
Howard Webb allowed him to play for Birmingham against Spurs on Saturday
April 2nd 2005, much to the disgust of the Campaign against Drink Driving.
Pennant, who was on loan from Arsenal at the time, was also subject to a
7am to 7pm curfew.
Boxing Day 2008 Hull City's 'crime' was to give a first half 'Sunday
League performance' in a Premier League match at Manchester City which saw
them 0-4 down at the break. Manager Phil Brown's punishment was to refuse
to let them enjoy the comforts of the dressing room at half-time and
instead sat them on the pitch in front of the 5500 travelling fans and
gave the players a rollicking. They drew the second half 1-1.
Vinnie Jones made a successful
debut as a cinema actor in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but
one of his efforts in a small-screen production was not so
widely-acclaimed. His association with the video Soccer's Hard Men
saw the Wimbledon player charged by the Football Association with bringing
the game into disrepute as the FA considered the video glorified violence
in football. Found guilty of the charge, in November 1992 he was fined £20,000
by the FA (a record at the time) and received a six-month ban, which was
suspended for three years.
The Wimbledon owner Sam
Hammam called Jones a 'mosquito brain' for his involvement with the video,
although presumably not to his face!
most famous arrest of an English footballer? When England were in Columbia
in May 1970 preparing to defend the World Cup (doesn't that sound great!)
in Mexico Bobby Moore was arrested and held under house arrest. He
was accused of stealing an emerald bracelet from a jewellery shop located
in the Hotel Tequendama in Bogota where the
squad were staying. Salesgirl Clara Padillo de Salgado alleged that she
saw the England captain put the bracelet in his pocket. A diplomatic
incident followed but with no real evidence of a theft let alone one by
Moore the matter was dropped but it was later described by Moore as being
the worst incident in his footballing career.
I was going to start off this bit
with something like 'how they got away with it' but given that they know
good lawyers and earn more in a week than I seem to be able to do in a
lifetime I think 'how justice was done' is a more suitable starting point.
When Alec Ferguson was caught
driving on the hard shoulder of the M602 in February 1999 his defence in
court was perhaps a tad more embarrassing than if he had just taken a fine
and penalty points - he had to get to the toilet! The Manchester United
manager was suffering from acute gastroenteritis which caused
and as his doctor explained in court when he was stuck in a traffic jam
and had an urgent need to visit a toilet he had one of two choices - 'One
is unthinkable and one is to take evasive action'. He added 'It's
not easy for someone in his position to come into court and, with respect,
explain his toilet difficulties on that day.' Very true, but it makes
a great story. Bury Magistrates found him not guilty.
Later in 1999 one of
Ferguson's players, David Beckham, won an appeal against an eight
month driving ban after being found guilty of driving his Ferrari - sorry
as ever proper journalist would say - driving his £150,000 Ferrari at
76mph in a 50 mph zone. He explained to the court that he was trying to
escape a paparazzi photographer who had been chasing him for 10 miles.
'The man was leaning over taking photos. He was
definitely not in control of the car and he nearly caused me to crash.
I thought if I didn't put my foot
down it would cause an accident' he explained in court. Those 'special
circumstances' saw him escape the ban although his conviction for speeding
After his £140,000 (the
cheapskate!) Bentley Continental GT was caught by a speed camera doing
38mph in a 30mph zone Manchester City's Carlos Tevez faced a court
summons in September 2011 for not identifying who the driver was. He
successful defence was although he had been in England since 2006 his
command of the English language was poor and his post was dealt with by
his staff, which they didn't do on this occasion. But he was fined a few
minutes wages (£60) and given three penalty points for the speeding
But please don't try any
of these at home. I would guess if a mere mortal tried any of these
defences for a driving offence in a local magistrates could the laughter
would be followed by a contempt of court charge!
By the way, arguably the
best player to play for a Manchester club - Duncan Edwards - was
prosecuted in 1955 for an offence on his £2 10 shilling push-bike, and he
didn't get away with it
(Those were the days...)
with a story that has a happy ending. In June 2011 Tracy Chandler
was sacked by Doncaster Rovers as the club mascot Donny Dog. Her
'crime' was to appear in her underwear alongside the mascot costume in a
cheeky but tasteful charity photo shoot for the Sunday Sport newspaper. She
was sacked by email after being accused of 'disgracing the club' by
appearing in the pictures. Tracy was reported to have descended into a
flood of tears. She said 'It’s OK for the players to strip off and do a
naked calendar for charity, that you can buy in the Rovers gift shop where
lots of children will see it, but I’m not allowed to pose in my underwear
for charity.' Fair comment!
Whatever bad publicity the club
might have had because of the
photos it was nothing compared with the worldwide coverage it got for
sacking her, of course every story being illustrated with one of the
pictures! A disgraceful exploitation of sex I say! The club relented and
gave her her job back. Doncaster chairman John Ryan said 'Donny
Dog is very popular with youngsters and we didn't like the association
with Sport and children seeing that paper.' And you know, I think if
she chucked away that stupid dog costume she would be pretty popular with
the Dad's as well!