Birmingham City fan Paul Mitchell jailed for 14 weeks for assault on Aston Villa star during derby clash
Birmingham City fan Paul Mitchell has been jailed for 14 weeks for assaulting Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.
Mitchell, 27, ran on to the pitch and struck Grealish on the back of the head in the ninth minute of the Second City derby on Sunday.
Pub worker Mitchell, wearing a grey T-shirt, pleaded guilty to assault and a charge of invading the pitch at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
He was sentenced in the afternoon to 14 weeks and was also banned from all football stadiums for ten years.
In a statement read into the court record by prosecutor Jonathan Purser, Grealish said: “I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident.
“It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
Mitchell’s solicitor told the court: “He cannot explain what came over him yesterday morning. His initial foolish intention was to just go onto the pitch and whip up the crowd.”
The Football Association said on Monday afternoon that “a line had been crossed” with this incident and a similar one later the same day where a supporter came onto the pitch during the Arsenal v Manchester United match and pushed United defender Chris Smalling.
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour. On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players,” the FA statement read.
“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. 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.”
Grealish went on to score the winning goal in the derby clash, securing a priceless 1-0 victory for Villa.
Prosecutor Jonathan Purser told the court that Grealish, who was not present in court, felt lasting pain after the incident but had suffered no substantial injury from a punch to the right side of his jaw.
On Sunday, the EFL condemned the incident while Villa and Birmingham both released statements on the disturbing incident.
“A red line has been crossed by this cowardly on-field assault on a player, which is unprecedented in English football,” Villa’s club statement read.
“We trust the perpetrator will feel the full force of the law and the authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding today’s deplorable incident.
“Local rivalries are part of the fabric of the game. However, as we are sure our friends at Birmingham City would agree, to have a player’s personal safety placed under such jeopardy is a serious cause for concern for the entire football community.”
The Blues apologised to their local rivals and have vowed to issue a lifetime ban from St Andrew’s to the man.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St Andrew’s for life,” a club statement read.
“The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this – there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
Birmingham have since released a further statement fully supporting the action taken against Mitchell.
It read: “Birmingham City Football Club welcome the sentence handed down to Paul Mitchell by Birmingham magistrates today.
“What he did was unacceptable and has no place in football.
“The Club can confirm that Mr Mitchell is banned from our home ground, the St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium, for life.
“And nor will he have access to purchase tickets for away games involving Birmingham City Football Club, or have tickets purchased on his behalf.
“The Club has also banned another supporter for life for a series of vile and malicious Tweets on social media, relating to Jack Grealish and his family.
“The individual in question remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by West Midlands Police.
“Birmingham City FC rejects all forms of anti-social behaviour. We will not tolerate the kind of incidents we have seen during and since Sunday’s derby fixture against Aston Villa Football Club.
“Any further comment from the Club on other issues will be released in due course.”