LONDON – A Birmingham fan who punched Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish during a highly-charged derby in the English Championship was jailed for 14 weeks and banned from football stadiums for 10 years on Monday.
Grealish was attacked by Paul Mitchell in a shocking incident during Sunday’s clash between the bitter local rivals at St Andrew’s.
Mitchell sprinted on to the pitch in the 10th minute of the derby, punching Grealish from behind and sending him sprawling to the turf.
The 27-year-old was eventually led away by stewards, while the visibly shaken Grealish was able to continue playing and eventually scored Villa’s second-half winner.
On Monday, Mitchell pleaded guilty to assault and invading the pitch when he appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
As well as his prison sentence and stadium ban, Mitchell was ordered to pay £100 (about R1 886) to Grealish as compensation for the pain, discomfort and shock caused by the assault.
Passing sentence, magistrate Alison Fisher told Mitchell: “This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable – a view shared by your own football club.
“Mr Grealish has stated that he was shocked and scared, and feels lucky that it wasn’t worse. Players such as Mr Grealish are entitled to protection. We have therefore gone outside of our guidelines in the interests of justice.”
Birmingham welcomed Mitchell’s sentencing and confirmed he has been banned from their stadium, and from buying tickets for away games for life.
Another Birmingham fan who tweeted abuse at Grealish has also been banned.
Paul Mitchell has been jailed for 14 weeks for this assault on Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish pic.twitter.com/wcgg84VLby
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) March 11, 2019
“Birmingham City Football Club welcomes the sentence handed down to Paul Mitchell by Birmingham magistrates today. What he did was unacceptable and has no place in football,” a club statement read.
“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.”