A football fan faced jail today after he admitted decking his own team’s star player during an FA Cup tie pitch invasion – because he had previously slept with his girlfriend.
Rob Fitzgerald, 24, jumped onto the pitch and punched Stevenage Borough FC defender Scott Laird, 22, following his teams’ shock 3-1 FA Cup tie win against Newcastle United.
Tipsy Fitzgerald attacked Laird out of a ”displaced loyalty” to his pregnant girlfriend who used to date the football star.
He admitted two counts of assault at Stevenage Magistrates Court yesterday (Wed) and faces a ten-year ban from football grounds.
Phillip Mansefield, prosecuting, told the court that Fitzgerald had been seen acting in a disorderly way and shouted abuse at Newcastle players before he targetted Laird.
He said: ”The steward has seen him throwing water and spitting at him [Scott Laird].
”The player was unaware of it and then the defendant is seen to throw a burger that he has been eating again in the direction of Scott Laird.
”This is disorderly behaviour leading up to the assault charge and invasion of the pitch.”
He said Laird was one of a number of people who unlawfully entered the pitch at the end of the match.
Mr Mansefield added: ”It is one punch. The punch landed with quite some force. You will see the victim Scott falls to the floor.
”He recalls very little of how he then got back into the changing room.”
CCTV footage of the incident was played to magistrates several times before Mr Mansefield read out a victim impact statement from Scott Laird.
Mr Laird said: ”I’m concerned that if he is let back into the football ground it might happen again.
”I just want to play football well and enjoy the celebration not be worried about him getting back onto the pitch.”
The court heard that in 2005 Fitzgerald was convicted for GBH and received a custodial sentence of 6 and half years which finished in 2008.
Miss Jennifer Browne, defending, told the court that Fitzgerald launched the attack in a fit of ”displaced loyalty” to his current girlfriend who had previously been in a relationship with Laird.
She said: ”This was sometime ago the defendant accepts that. But my instructions are that the injured party did not treat the girlfriend correctly.
”Mr Fitzgerald took matters into his own hand and it was seizing the opportunity, it was not pre-meditated to go onto the football pitch and hit the injured party.
”We term it as displaced loyalty to his current girlfriend.”
Miss Browne told the court that Fitzgerald had handed himself in to Herts,. police after footage of the attack was shown on Sky News.
She told the court that Fitzgerald was a qualified personal trainer but had been out of work for some time and was currently collecting job seekers allowance.
She added: ”If you strip away the football and the media attention we are still dealing with one punch.”
On behalf of the crown Mr Mansefield asked the court to impose a football banning order under section 14a of the Football Spectator’s Act 1989
Presiding magistrate Dr Kevin Seymour told Fitzgerald ordered a probation report ahead of his sentencing at Stevenage Magistrates Court February 17.
He said: ”There’s no doubt in our minds that the custody threshold has been crossed by this offence.”
Dr Seymour granted bail to Fitzgerald on condition that he made no attempt to contact Scott Laird or any other employee of Stevenage FC.
Fitzgerald also received an interim ban on entering the grounds of Stevenage football club or attending any football match from now until the date of his sentencing.
The football banning order will also be considered when Fitzgerald is sentenced.