Premiership footballer Lee Bowyer was fined £600 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs after he admitted sparking an on-pitch brawl because team mate Keiron Dyer did not pass him the ball.
He pleaded guilty at Newcastle Magistrates Court to using threatening behaviour following astonishing scenes in front of 52,000 fans at St James' Park during a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa in April 2005.
In a statement afterwards, the footballer, now with West Ham United, said the incident had been "blown out of all proportion" and had already cost him £250,000 in lost wages and a £30,000 Football Association fine.
In a statement issued after the court case Bowyer's solicitor, Steven Barker, said: "Lee has today pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. He was previously charged with a much more serious offence under
Section 4 of the same Act but contested that charge.
"As a result the Crown and Prosecution Service sensibly dropped this charge and accepted Lee's offer of a plea.
"Lee offered the plea of his own volition so as to avoid what would have been a four-day trial involving a number of witnesses including his fellow professionals.
"He did not wish to bring the spotlight upon his fellow professionals for an incident that occurred over a year ago.
"The incident was blown out of all proportion. Far more serious incidents occur almost weekly in sport and go unpunished.
"Lee had already apologised for his action on that day as well as apologising personally to Kieron Dyer. He remains a friend of Kieron.
"He received a very substantial penalty from his employers at the time, Newcastle United FC, and subsequently a further penalty and fine from the Football Association.
"The total monetary fine was in excess of £250,000 excluding legal costs.
"Lee is looking forward to the new season with West Ham. He wishes to thank everyone at the club as well as his former colleagues at Newcastle and indeed Gordon Taylor and the Professional Footballers Association for their support in this case."
The footballer had previously denied a more serious offence of causing fear or provocation of violence, but today admitted the lesser charge of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
Passing sentence, chairman of the bench Vicky Maier said the magistrates had not considered issuing a football banning order, which would have banned him from football stadia, because it would have been "disproportionate".
Both the defence and prosecution had agreed that such an order was not applicable in this case.
Mrs Maier said the maximum penalty for the offence was £1,000, but his early guilty plea to the lesser charge had been to his credit.
She described the incident with Dyer was "a moment of madness".
The Northumbria Police Deputy Chief Constable David Warcup defended the decision to investigate Bowyer following the brawl.
"It was entirely appropriate that we investigated this matter, and in fact had a duty to do so as a result of complaints which were received.
"We sought advice from the Crown Prosecution Service at an early stage and they decided there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute.
"This case was brought following a number of complaints from members of the public. Policing at football matches is to ensure the effective safety of the public, and any incidents of violence, whether they be on the pitch or in the stands, can affect the safety of people attending the event.
"Therefore it's not only the spectators who have a responsibility to behave themselves, but also the players on the pitch.
"Professional footballers are role models for a substantial section of our communities. They are highly rewarded for their efforts and have the responsibility to themselves, their employers and their fans to portray their sport in the best possible light."
Prosecutor Tony Glover told the court Bowyer suffered a "moment of madness" during the melee with Dyer.
He said the row erupted in the 80th minute of the game as the Magpies trailed 3-0.
Bowyer was frustrated with his team's performance and annoyed at Dyer for not passing to him when he had a goal scoring chance.
"It was a spur of the moment thing," Bowyer told police in an interview. "Just a moment of madness and it happens.
"I have lost my temper."
The midfielder walked up to Dyer, who was standing on the halfway line, and put his head down in a head-butting motion towards him.
"I walked up to him and we were just rowing," Bowyer said.
"I put my head down towards his chin ... I am not trying to hurt him."
Mr Glover said Dyer had then grappled with Bowyer and so he had retaliated by throwing two punches towards his team mate.
Other players witnessing the row then intervened to break up the fracas while the referee stopped the game.
Match day fourth official Nigel Miller, who was on duty at St James's Park, said in a statement that Bowyer had made a "beeline" for his team-mate.
"When Bowyer reached him, Bowyer pushed his forehead in the direction of Dyer's face," Mr Miller said in his statement.
"Dyer made no attempt to get out of the way. Bowyer than took a swing towards Dyer's head.
"It was definitely a deliberate punch towards his head but I couldn't say whether it connected.
"Dyer then put both hands towards the back of Bowyer's head."Reuse content