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When Duncan Ferguson became first professional player in Britain to be jailed for on-field incident

Jack Kenmare

| Last updated 

When Duncan Ferguson became first professional player in Britain to be jailed for on-field incident

On April 16, 1994, in a Scottish Premiership fixture against Raith Rovers, Rangers striker Duncan Ferguson decided to headbutt defender John McStay. It was an incident that would land him a three-month prison sentence for assault.

As a result of his actions on the pitch that day, Ferguson, who signed for Rangers the previous year for a record £4 million fee, became the first professional player in Britain to be jailed for an on-field offence. He remains the only player to do so.

You can see the incident below.


So what happened in the days, weeks and months following the headbutt incident that left McStay with a cut lip?

The following year Ferguson was convicted of assault at Glasgow Sheriff Court after losing his appeal and was sentenced to three months in jail. His prison sentence was for his third conviction for assault.

He served 44 days in the city's Barlinnie prison before being released and was also banned for 12 games by the Scottish Football Association.

Years later and the former Everton striker, who was playing for The Toffees at the time of being jailed, claimed he should not have been made an example of and described the headbutt on McStay as "nothing".


In a chat with Everton fan channel Toffee TV in 2019, Ferguson opened up about the incident and his stay in prison.

"It was wrong me being there, it wasn't fair," he said. "I shouldn't have been in there and I think a lot of people understood that.

"It's not as if I was in for doing anything bad really. My God, it was nothing.


"The fans got me through it, a lot of them wrote to me. It was unbelievable all the letters and the support that I got.

"I got all the letters when I was in there and obviously you have got a lot of time on your hands when you're in there to read through them all.

"It definitely gets you through it and you never forget those things."



Back in 2019, John McStay also spoke about the Ferguson headbutt incident during an interview, where he opened up about his battle with depression following the clash in 1994.

"No one knows I had it [depression]. No one apart from my wife really knows," he told The Scotsman.

"I was on medication for 18 years. It changed me, put it that way. I am not blaming the headbutt. Things happen in life. Getting divorced as well.

"I stopped playing football at the same time. Everything just happened. Things happen in life you cannot handle.


"But I lost a bit of belief, hope. I could not handle not being at Raith Rovers anymore.

"That's the thing, I was only 28 when it happened - it felt as if I was maybe in my 30s, at the end of my career. I was only 28 and that was it. Done."

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Featured Image Credit: Sky Sports

Topics: Everton, Rangers

Jack Kenmare
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