- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

LONDON (AP) - The harshest punishment soccer players can usually expect for berating a referee is a suspension or fine _ not 24 weeks in jail.

But then most players don’t respond to the threat of a red card by driving a car on the field and at the official.

Amateur player Joseph Rimmer became incensed by a referee’s refusal to award a free kick during a February game between Lonsdale and Harrington in northwest England. Rimmer thought he was about to be penalized by referee David Harkness, so he told him: “If you book me or send me off, you know what will happen.”

Not likely.

Rimmer, who works as fitness instructor and nightclub doorman, stormed off, fetched his Range Rover and drove it across the grass. Harkness was not hurt.

Witnesses statements read in court said people reacted with “panic and fear” and some had to run to get out of Rimmer’s way.

“Before he could be shown the red card, the defendant stated, ‘I’m going to run you down,’ then walked off the pitch,” prosecutor Derek Jones said. Rimmer was sentenced in Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

Harkness remains shaken.

“After 35 years, I now fear I cannot continue as a referee,” he said in a statement. “I have not slept through fear that the defendant will find out where I live and carry out his threat to shoot me.”

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