March 12 – A 27-year-old Birmingham City fan who ran on to the pitch and assaulted Jack Grealish of arch-rivals Aston Villa in Sunday’s Championship derby has received an immediate jail sentence of 14 weeks.
The fan, named as Paul Mitchell, struck Grealish around the back of the head and neck after just 10 minutes of the game and was also ordered to pay £350 in costs, including £100 in compensation to the highly regarded midfielder. He has been handed a 10-year ban from all stadiums.
His solicitor told Birmingham Magistrates’ Court: “He cannot explain what came over him yesterday morning. His initial foolish intention was to just go on to the pitch and whip up the crowd.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Purser told the court Grealish felt lasting pain after the incident but had suffered no substantial injury from a punch to the right side of his jaw.
In a statement read to the court, the Villa captain 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, a pub worker who has been a season ticket holder for 20 years, was said to be “very remorseful” after realising he had “brought shame” on his club and magistrates said the prison sentence had been handed down as a deterrent following a national outcry over the incident.
A spokesman for the Football Association said “a line had been crossed” and strongly condemned the attack, as well as another pitch invasion by a supporter during the Arsenal-Manchester United fixture.
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