A regional league footballer in Germany was banned Thursday for three years, and his club suspended for six months, after he punched a referee who had just sent him off.

The player from FSV Muenster has been charged with assault and banned from playing by the governing body in Hesse for punching the 22-year-old referee in a regional league game against TV Semd last month.

The official was knocked out by the punch and had to be airlifted to hospital.

The Muenster club in west Germany has also been suspended from playing for six months and fined 500 euros ($553).

“Something like that does not belong on a sports pitch and the three-years are fully justified, it was the highest possible penalty,” Theodor Greiner of the Hessian Football Association (HFV), said.

Greiner suspects the three-year ban handed to the player “could well be changed to life” when the HFV meets at the weekend.

FSV Muenster immediately suspended their team from playing after the incident and the club's president has said the player responsible will be held liable for the fine.

There was another violent incident in the lower leagues on Wednesday when a cup semi-final in south-west Germany was called off after an assistant referee was knocked to the ground during the match.