Coach jailed for punching parent at youth match

BANNED: Mark Copping outside the court on Tuesday.
BANNED: Mark Copping outside the court on Tuesday.

A Great Cornard youth football coach who assaulted an opposition player’s father and left him needing 10 stitches in his face was jailed on Tuesday.

Mark Copping, 39, of Highview Close, Sudbury, was sentenced to five months in prison and banned from all football matches in England and Wales for six years after admitting punching Paul Dunlop on March 3.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard that Copping, then manager of Cornard Dynamos Blues Under-14s team, for which his son played, had sworn at the referee over an offside decision 35 minutes into a match against Notley Youth at Cornard United’s Blackhouse Lane ground.

Patricia Doggett, prosecuting, said: “Mr Dunlop stated that Copping had been swearing a lot during the game and arguing with opposition players’ parents.

“He said ‘How can you see that from where you are?’ and Copping swore and said ‘Because I have eyes’.”

Miss Doggett said Copping had squared up to Mr Dunlop over a barrier hoarding and Mr Dunlop did not back down.

“Copping took a step back and threw a punch into his face, striking Mr Dunlop on the right side of his lip,” she said. “He felt instant pain as it split.”

The court heard the pair were separated by parents and police were called. Copping was arrested and Mr Dunlop taken to hospital where he received 10 stitches and was left scarred.

Several witnesses backed up Mr Dunlop’s version of events.

Copping, a season ticket holder at Ipswich Town, accepted in interview that he had punched Mr Dunlop, but claimed self-defence as he had been pushed. The Crown Prosecution Service did not accept his self-defence argument.

Copping had a previous conviction for common assault in 1994.

In mitigation, David Cason said: “Mr Dunlop’s hands are not entirely clean.

“He was told by one witness to come away and he didn’t – if he had done so, this incident may not have happened.”

Mr Cason added that Copping, who was sacked by the club for breaching their code of conduct, had shown remorse, stopped going to watch his son play and was attending anger management classes.

In addition to the jail sentence, Copping was ordered to pay £350 compensation to Mr Dunlop.