THE owner of Colchester United was “barged into” by a charity employee following a foul mouthed exchange between the pair, an employment tribunal has heard.

Robbie Cowling told police he had been headbutted by Mark Harris, but CCTV suggested he had most likely been barged into “stomach first” during the incident.

The confrontation came following a long-running issue regarding Mr Harris’ dismissal from Colchester United’s charity, Football in the Community, back in April 2019. His role was deemed to be no longer viable after a training programme he was organising was stopped.

Mr Harris saw his grievance over his sacking dismissed on July 13, 2019, but then took the matter to an internal appeal which was attended by Mr Cowling himself.

During the hearing, Mr Harris asked for disciplinary action to be taken against charity chief executive, Corin Haines.

The claimant also asked for an apology and compensation to be agreed for two former colleagues who had left the charity.

Notes from the tribunal state Mr Cowling was “seething” after hearing the demands, and told Mr Harris after the meeting that his claims were “frivolous”.

He also warned Mr Harris he would “go after him for costs”.

The duo were then said to have directed “foul language” at each other during a row.

It was alleged Mr Cowling called Mr Harris a “f****** c***” in the exchange of words.

The tribunal found “without difficulty” Mr Cowling had likely used the offensive phrase.

Tribunal judge Paul Housego said: “The dialogue then seems to indicate that Mr Cowling was egging Mr Harris on to hit him, and the CCTV the tribunal has seen seems to back this up, because Mr Cowling is seen standing with his hands behind his back while they are speaking almost nose to nose.

“Mr Harris then turned on his heel and walked away. When he was about ten metres away Mr Cowling said something, undoubtedly deeply offensive to Mr Harris, who spun round, walked straight back to Mr Cowling and barged into him, stomach first.”

The tribunal eventually ruled Mr Harris had been ‘victimised’ by being dismissed, and found the real reason behind his dismissal was because he had helped a former colleague during her own grievance meeting with the football club’s charity.

Another hearing will take place to determine how much compensation Mr Harris is owed.

Colchester United was contacted for comment.