Cantona to pay pounds 350 for assault

Eric Cantona was yesterday ordered to pay a photocopier salesman pounds 350 damages after a judge ruled he had attacked the man in a hotel brawl.

The Manchester United star denied through solicitors that he had grabbed Tom Doyle round the neck and slapped his face.

He said he had not contested the case at Liverpool County Court only to avoid causing the "media circus" that would result if he had attended the hearing.

But James Byrne, Mr Doyle's barrister, said: "Mr Doyle is pleased with the judgment. He feels he has been vindicated. The court has accepted he was assaulted and battered by Mr Cantona."

The incident happened in 1994 when Cantona was in the Moat House International Hotel, Chester, after a day at the races with other players.

Reports at the time said tables were overturned and chairs sent flying after heated exchanges between the players and other people in the hotel.

Cantona's lawyers said after yesterday's private hearing that the player had offered Mr Doyle pounds 1,000 - the maximum he could have been awarded by the small claims court - but that had been rejected.

His solicitor, Simon Mather, said: "Eric Cantona strongly denies these allegations. In his absence the district judge inevitably found in favour of Mr Doyle."

Mr Byrne said Mr Doyle, from Liverpool, had not been prepared to accept Cantona's pounds 1,000 offer because the player was not accepting liability for the assault.

Mr Doyle gave evidence and was cross-examined at the hearing before District Judge David Gee awarded pounds 350 with costs and pounds 3.50 interest.

Mr Doyle left the court without commenting.