The man who attacked Jack Grealish during Sunday’s match between Birmingham City and Aston Villa has been sentenced to 14 weeks in prison.
Paul Mitchell, 27, who appeared before Birmingham Magistrates Court on Monday, admitted invading the St Andrews pitch and striking Grealish in the 12th minute of the ‘Second City Derby’.
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”This was an unprovoked assault on a footballer doing his job in front of 23,000 spectators and thousands watching on TV, including families,” magistrate Alison Fisher said during sentencing.
“We note that you have taken responsibility for your actions. However, this type of behaviour is totally unacceptable.
”The sentence must act as a punishment and a deterrent to others in order to send a message to the public and fans and players like Mr Grealish who should be protected at all times.
”We have taken into account mitigation and family circumstances, however, we feel your actions deserve a prison term, one for 14 weeks.”
Mitchell has been banned from any football matches for 10 years, while Birmingham City confirmed the supporter has been given a lifetime ban from St. Andrew’s.
The prosecutor Jonathan Purser had earlier said Mitchell “was not intoxicated” during the incident and “did it as a joke.”
”The officer who was carrying Mitchell off the pitch said Mitchell thought Mr Grealish was a nob,” he added.
”He did say he was remorseful. It was an unprovoked assault on someone doing his work. There was pain, discomfort and shock.”
Vaughan Whistance, defending, said: “It has brought shame upon his family and the club he has supported as a child. A season ticket for over 20 years.”
The defence solicitor added: ”This was totally out of character.
”He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning. His initial foolish intention to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd.
“He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a two-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
The court heard how the defendant’s family has moved out of the area amid fears over their safety.
“This is a high profile case, captured on national television,” added Mr Whistance.
“My client’s young family have had to leave their home and move out of Birmingham in fear of serious harm or death.”
The incident with Grealish occurred just hours before Chris Smalling was shoved by an Arsenal fan as the Gunners beat Manchester United, while Rangers captain James Tavernier was confronted by a fan at Hibernian on Friday.
In response, the Football Association – which governs the game in England – issued a statement condemning the two incidents, insisting “a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour.”
“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 to examine the security measures they had in place.”