A Birmingham City fan who punched Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish during a game has been jailed. Paul Mitchell, 27, was given 14 weeks behind bars at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to assault.
He had jumped over barriers and invaded the pitch during Sunday’s Birmingham derby and attacked Grealish, 23, from behind.
Stewards then wrestled him off the grounds and he was arrested and remanded in custody overnight. Earlier today, the court heard that Mitchell, who is currently unemployed, had called Grealish a knob after he left the field following the assault, which happened in the ninth minute.
Mitchell claims he was not intoxicated and was with his father and did it as a joke,’ prosecutor Jonathan Purser said. ‘He did say he was remorseful. It was an unprovoked assault on someone doing his work. There was pain, discomfort and shock.
Mr Purser said Grealish suffered no substantial injury from the punch to the right side of his jaw, while in a statement read to court, the footballer said he was lucky Mitchell was not carrying a weapon.
Despite the incident the Aston Villa captain went on to score the only goal of the game, lifting the team to a 1-0 victory. He later said it was best day of his life, writing on Instagram: The cream always rises.
Mitchell’s solicitor Vaughn Whistance told the court that his client could not explain what came over him yesterday morning and said that the assault was totally out of character. He added: ‘His initial foolish intention was to just go onto the pitch and whip up the crowd.’
The Football Association said today that a line had been crossed with both this incident and a similar one later the same day at the Arsenal match against Manchester United.
In that case, a supporter had stormed the pitch and pushed United defender Chris Smalling. Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk,’ the FA said in a statement.
This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents. We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations and examine the security measures they had in place.