A rugby player who repeatedly punched another player at the start of an amateur game between two rival teams has been given a 12-month conditional discharge by a judge at Birmingham Crown Court.
Engineering company boss Philip Stanley had initially denied five charges of assault but admitted two of them just before his victim was due to give evidence against him. The three remaining charges were allowed to remain on the file.
Stanley (38), of Rowton Drive, Streetly, was also ordered to pay £350 costs and £500 compensation by Judge Philip Gregory who told him that if he had been convicted of all the charges following a trial he could have faced a prison sentence.
He said: "It must be clearly understood that however physical or violent rugby may be, if somebody decides to punch an opponent on a number of occasions, they will risk prosecution."
Speaking afterwards 28-year-old Warren Spiers, the victim, who plays for Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club, said he was happy with the result of the case and felt by bringing the prosecution it had helped to maintain the integrity of the game of rugby union.
He said: "I love and respect the game, what it is and what it stands for. People who referee the game are not professionals and cannot be expected to be everywhere at all times. It was unfortunate the referee did not spot this.
"I did feel it should have been recognised in terms of the law and that what happened was not allowed and was wrong."
Mr Spiers, an area sales manager with an engineering firm, said if it had involved only one incident, it probably would not have come to court but it was the fact that it was persistent which made it serious.
Stephen Thomas, prosecuting, said the game took place on December 16, 2006 and was between Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club and Aston Old Edwardians.
He said Stanley appeared to have formed some grievance against Mr Spiers and following a line-out, took hold of him and punched him several times. The victim has to leave the field with a bleeding nose.
Mr Thomas said Mr Spiers returned but after a few minutes there was another line-out during which Stanley punched him again. It was alleged Stanley was responsible for other violent incidents including gouging and stamping and that after 18 minutes of the game Mr Spiers was forced to go to hospital where he was treated for injuries including cuts at the front and back of his head, a black eye and bruising.
Philip Bown defending, said: "The type of injury that Mr Spiers suffered, he could have suffered during the course of any rugby match where no one committed any foul."
He said Stanley, who had played rugby since he was a boy, employed 40 people. He had not played since the incident and had vowed never to play again.