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Dundee United fan avoids jail after attacking Aberdeen player during match

Marc Jackson has admitted assaulting Aberdeen's Funso Ojo
Marc Jackson has admitted assaulting Aberdeen's Funso Ojo

A Dundee United supporter who attacked an Aberdeen player during a match has been ordered to carry out unpaid work as a direct alternative to jail.

Marc Jackson assaulted Dons midfielder Funso Ojo as he ran towards home supporters to recover the ball when it went out of play.

Jackson, a season ticket holder at Tannadice for 22 years, stood up and used both hands to shove the player backwards, causing him to stumble.

Dundee Sheriff Court was told that tensions had flared during the match because a Dundee United player had been sent off shortly before half-time.

Dundee United fan Marc Jackson, right with black cap, assaulted Aberdeen’s Funso Ojo during this pitch-side confrontation

However, the court was told that Jackson had, ironically, missed the incident as he had left early to beat the queue for a half-time pie.

Night manager Jackson, 35, admitted attacking the 30-year-old player by pushing him on the body at Tannadice Park in Dundee on 20 November last year.

He was ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and the court heard that Dundee United had withdrawn his season ticket for the rest of the 2021/22 campaign.

His status will be reviewed by the club in the wake of the court case.

Sheriff Alistair Carmichael said: “This could potentially have influenced the way other fans behaved. There were thousands of people there. It is a serious matter.

“You were guilty of assaulting a footballer in the course of a professional match. It was not a wise thing to do. This was a bizarre set of circumstances and clearly out of character.

“I am satisfied you have a genuine love for the game and are genuinely ashamed of what you did. A custodial sentence has to be considered but I am satisfied there is an alternative.”

Marc Jackson leaves Dundee Sheriff Court

The incident sparked controversy when the Aberdeen midfielder was shown a second yellow card and was sent off for clashing with Jackson.

The court was told referee Bobby Madden had no option but to book the player due to him having contact with a supporter.

Footage showed Jackson, Gillburn Road, Dundee, leaping out of his seat to physically remonstrate with Ojo after he chased a ball towards the Eddie Thompson Stand.

Heightened tensions between rival supporters

Fiscal depute Stewart Duncan said the match between Dundee United and Aberdeen was approaching half-time when Ojo chased a ball off the pitch towards the home supporters.

Mr Duncan said: “A Dundee United player was given a straight red card and was ordered off and that caused heightened tensions between home and away supporters.

“The complainer was running at speed to chase a ball which went out of play. He went off the pitch and over the advertising boards towards where the accused was.

“The accused stood up and pushed Mr Ojo to the body with both hands. It caused Mr Ojo to fall back slightly. The incident caused additional disruption and fprced officers to enter the stands.”

Mr Duncan said Jackson left the ground at half-time, but he was easily identified from CCTV footage and his brother confirmed his identity to the police.

The court was told that within hours of the incident featuring on Sportscene, Jackson had written apologetic emails to both of the clubs involved.

‘He is not proud of what he did’

Solicitor Larry Flynn, defending, said: “He sits in the front row with members of his family. The Aberdeen player has gone to recover the ball.

“The accused stood up and pushed him. The matter lasted about five seconds. The Aberdeen player is surprised, reacts and goes back towards him.

“That is why he was sent off – the rules are very strict and maybe people do not know but it is mandatory for the referee to book a player who approaches the public.

“He had gone before half-time to get food and drinks, pies and such like, for the group and he was unaware the Aberdeen player had been booked already.

“He would want to help his team, but not like this. This was not someone who gloated or was proud of what he did. He realised straight away the mistake he made.

“He did something he had never done before. He went home because he felt terrible about the whole thing. He has been a season ticket holder without blemish.”

Mr Flynn told the court Jackson had been forced to shut down his social media because of the backlash from the public after the incident was shown repeatedly on TV.

“It was a moment of madness which has had a very significant impact upon him. The player was just doing his best for his team, running to get the ball.”

Immediately after the match, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack issued a statement in which he said it was unacceptable for a player to be assaulted in a stadium.

He said: “The club are appalled at the events that unfolded and are fully supporting Funso who remains shaken by the entire incident.

“Such conduct from any supporter is wholly unacceptable and should not be tolerated in what, for a football player, is their place of work.”

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