Man jailed for headbutting Sheffield United captain during play-off semi final

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A Nottingham Forest football fan was jailed for headbutting Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp at Tuesday’s play-off semi-final after downing seven pints – prompting police to warn “casual thuggery” at games will be punished.

Forest season ticket holder Robert Biggs, 30, admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm at the team’s City Ground which left Sharp requiring four stitches to a wound to his lip.

Biggs, a £55,000-a-year electrical engineer, was jailed at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday for 24 weeks and handed a 10-year football banning order.

And Nottingham Forest have now said the fan, who the court heard had followed the team since he was as young as five, will be banned for life.

Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp before the game at Nottingham Forest's City Ground
Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp before the game at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. A man has been jailed for headbutting Mr Sharp (PA)

Prosecutor Marianne Connally said the incident was caught by cameras covering the Championship semi-final for live television.

She told the court: “A large number of fans entered the field of play.

“Mr Sharp hadn’t directly participated in the game. He appears to be standing with his hands in his pockets.

“Mr Biggs can be seen to run along the pitch. He then headbutts Mr Sharp.

Nottingham Forest v Sheffield United – Sky Bet Championship – Play Off – Semi Final – Second Leg – City Ground
Nottingham Forest fans celebrate on the pitch after they reach the play off final (PA)

“The Crown’s case is that this is a deliberate and senseless act of violence.”

Biggs drunk nearly a gallon of beer in the lead-up to and during the game, and claimed he only realised the extent of the contact when he watched footage of the incident later, Nottinghamshire Police said.

After half-speed footage of the assault was shown to the court, defence solicitor Rachel Gowans said Biggs handed himself to police in the early hours of Wednesday.

She told the court: “He has been a Forest fan since he was five or six. He has followed them both home and away and he has never been arrested before.”

The court heard Biggs had been drinking at a pub near the City Ground before the match and “just followed” two friends onto the pitch.

Ms Gowans said: “He says that in effect he got carried away in the moment… as did a number of people. His sole intention was to get to the tunnel. He remembers running towards the players but to the left of Billy Sharp, looking at the crowd… and then running straight into somebody.”

Biggs appeared in court in custody and did not oppose an application for a football banning order during the hearing.

He was told that separate charge of illegally entering the playing surface had been dropped.

District Judge Grace Leong had been urged to pass a suspended sentence on Robert Biggs, who claimed he and his girlfriend would not be able to keep up monthly mortgage repayments of over £1,000 if he was jailed.

But the judge told Biggs: “Given the gravity of this offence, where thousands were present to witness it, there has to be an element of deterrence.

“You headbutted Mr Sharp, who was looking elsewhere at the time and could not have taken any avoiding action.

“His lip had to be stitched afterwards and that is not a minor injury.”

The judge added the incident seemed like a “targeted act of aggression” and was so serious a custodial sentence was needed.

“The forceful impact resulted in a very unpleasant injury to Mr Sharp,” she said.

“You must have seen him fall over but you did not stop to check if he was all right or whether he was seriously injured.”

Biggs, of Church View, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was ordered to pay Sharp £500 in compensation, as well as £85 in costs and a £128 victim surcharge.

Following the sentencing, Nottinghamshire Police condemned the “absolutely shameful” behaviour and warned other fans of engaging in similar acts of aggression.

Detective Inspector Paul Lefford said: “This was an absolutely shameful end to an otherwise brilliant night of football.

“This kind of casual thuggery has no place in the game and I hope today’s sentence sends out a very clear warning to others who may be tempted to act in a similar way.

“You will be identified, you will be put before the courts and you may very well end up in prison and you will not be able to watch football for a very long time.”