A FOOTBALLER has been cleared of assaulting a match referee during a Herefordshire Premier League tie, which was abandoned

Hereford Lads Club Reserves player William Webb, 24, was accused of punching experienced referee Leslie Coultas twice during a match against Orleton Colts at Widemarsh Common in Hereford last October.

The match was abandoned following an ‘ugly melee’ during which Mr Coultas claimed he was assaulted.

Mr Webb, of Sycamore Avenue, Hereford, was found not guilty of assault after trial at Hereford Magistrates Court.

Magistrates said that there was ‘reasonable doubt’ over what happened during the confusing melee, which started after a bad tackle was made during a ill-tempered football match.

Mr Coultas, who has been a football referee for the Herefordshire FA for the last 34 years, said that the alleged incident happened in the 83rd minute of the match.

He told magistrates that an altercation had begun following a bad tackle between two players and he stopped the game to caution both players. The two players involved started to fight and while he was dealing with the matter Mr Coultas claimed Mr Webb ran and punched an Orleton player.

Mr Coultas said he called Mr Webb over. As Mr Coultas was writing in his book he claimed Mr Webb punched him to the side of his neck and then to his shoulder.

Mr Coultas was supported by assistant referee Shaun Fitzpatrick who was on the sideline.

He described seeing Mr Webb get up off the floor going to the side of Mr Coultas and punching him twice in the face.

Police officers confirmed injuries to Mr Coultas’ jaw and neck.

Mr Webb denied both of the previous versions of events, punching Mr Coultas or making the alleged comments.

He described the match as ‘heated’ between both teams and a tackle in the middle of the pitch resulted in a fight breaking out.

“Both teams gathered to try and split it up including myself,” said Mr Webb.

“I felt a tug on my shirt so I shrugged my right arm back and carried on splitting the incident up. I felt a further tug so swung my arm back with a flailing arm and as I turned around I saw the referee. I was shocked, he then stumbled back and I wanted to help him up.”

He added: “I apologise if I accidentally struck him and how the incident occurred.”

Magistrates dismissed the case due to discrepancies in the evidence against Mr Webb.