Football urged to protect players after fan punches Aston Villas Jack Grealish

Football faces urgent calls to protect players after Aston Villas captain, Jack Grealish, was attacked by a spectator in his sides derby win at Birmingham

Football is facing urgent calls to improve player safety after the Aston Villa captain, Jack Grealish, was assaulted on the pitch by a spectator in the latest among a rash of troubling crowd-related incidents in recent weeks.


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    Grealish was punched from behind by a pitch invader, ostensibly a Birmingham City fan, in the ninth minute of the Championship derby at St Andrews. The assailant was arrested and Grealish, who was uninjured, gathered himself to score the only goal of the game after half-time. But the matter is unlikely to end there, with Birminghams role in the incident coming under particular scrutiny and concerns growing about a wider trend of violence at football matches across the UK.

    Just under six hours later, in another episode that will raise serious questions about the measures in place to keep footballers out of danger, a supporter ran on to the Emirates Stadium pitch during Arsenals 2-0 win over Manchester United, and shoved Chris Smalling, as the north London side celebrated their second goal.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, said: I didnt see exactly what happened but there shouldnt be a place in the game where someone runs on to the pitch. Its not nice to see. Its one of those thing that we dont want. An Arsenal spokesman said: We utterly condemn the behaviour of the individual who ran on to the pitch and approached Chris Smalling during todays match. We would like to apologise to Chris and Manchester United, and are pleased that [the intruder] was apprehended and arrested. We will be working closely with the police in their investigation. The individual will also be banned from Arsenal matches home and away.

    Quick guide

    Timeline: a season of supporter shame

    Aston Villa v Preston,2 Oct 2018

    A Villa employee was hit by a cabbage thrown at the then-manager Steve Bruce by his own sides fans during a 3-3 draw.

    Arsenal v Tottenham,2 Dec 2018

    A Tottenham fan threw a banana skin at Arsenals Patrick Aubemayang after the strikers goal in the northLondon derby at the Emirates. The fan was fined and handed a four-year banning order by magistrates.

    Chelsea v Man City,8Dec 2018

    A Chelsea fan was interviewed by police under caution after allegedly hurling racist abuse at Citys Raheems Sterling.

    Hibernian v Celtic,2 Mar 2019

    A glass bottle was thrown from the Hibernian support as the Celtic winger Scott Sinclair prepared to take a corner during a cup match.

    Sheff Wed v Sheff Utd,4 Mar 2019

    The visiting sides Jack OConnell had a coin and a plastic bottle thrownat him as he prepared to takea throw-in.

    Hibernian v Rangers,8 Mar 2019

    Rangers James Tavernier was confronted by a man who emerged from the same stand as the bottle was thrown against Celtic. Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster refused to rule out closingparts of Easter Road.

    Birmingham City v Aston Villa, 10 March 2019

    Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was assaulted by a fan early in the Birmingham derby. The supporter was arrested and Grealish went on to score the winner in a 1-0 win for Villa.

    Arsenal v Manchester United, 10 Mar 2019

    Manchester United’s Chris Smalling was approached and shoved by a man shortly after Arsenal scored their second in a 2-0 win. The individual was arrested and Arsenal stated he would be banned from attending any home or away match involving the club.

    In a strongly-worded statement, Villa demanded an investigation into the chain of events that put Grealish in harms way. Aston Villa football club is appalled by the disgraceful attack on Jack Grealish during todays game, it read. A red line has been crossed by this cowardly on-field assault on a player, which is unprecedented in English football. We trust the perpetrator will feel the full force of the law and the authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding todays 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 players personal safety placed under such jeopardy is a serious cause for concern for the entire football community.

    On Sunday night West Midlands police announced a 27-year-old man had been charged with invading the pitch and assaulting Grealish. A statement read: We have this evening charged a man with invading the pitch and assaulting Aston Villa player Jack Grealish during the Second City derby. Paul Mitchell, aged 27, of Rubery, has been remanded in custody to appear before Birmingham magistrates court on Monday.

    Grealish preferred to focus on his match-winning goal and admitted to finding that moment particularly satisfying in light of what had occurred earlier. I was just unaware at the time, I was walking into position and then just felt a whack around the side of the face, he told Sky Sports. Obviously theres rivalry and stuff in football, but I dont think theres any place for that really. I just tried to get on with my job. To score the winner was unbelievable. After what happened in the first half I think it was set up for it.

    A contrite Birmingham statement confirmed that the offender will, as a minimum, be banned from their stadium for life. We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St Andrews for life, it said. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

    A
    A supporter is tackled by stewards as Jack Grealish sits on the floor. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images

    Birmingham said the incident has no place in football or society and confirmed that they will review their stadiums safety procedures. That may extend to their stewarding after television footage appeared to show a member of their matchday staff attempting to force Grealish back over an advertising hoarding as he celebrated his 67th-minute goal, and subsequently being led away by police officers.

    The Football Association will investigate the spectators assault on Grealish after receiving the match report from Tim Robinson, the referee. Birmingham can expect to be charged, with a punishment for failing to control their supporters among the options available, and there have been calls for the club to receive a severe sanction.

    The club are going to have to take a huge punishment for this to act as a deterrent in the future, tweeted the former England defender Gary Neville. A points deduction or empty stadium for 10 games! The former Villa player Lee Hendrie added: Theres got to be a hefty fine, possibly a points deduction.

    Offences of this gravity have little precedent in the English leagues although, in October 2012, the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland required medical attention after being struck by a pitch invader during a match against Leeds at Hillsborough. Aaron Cawley was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail and given a six-year football banning order, while Leeds banned him from their Elland Road ground for life.

    It was also not the first time a Birmingham derby at St Andrews has seen a supporter overstep the mark. In 2002 Michael Harper, a Birmingham fan, ran on to the St Andrews pitch and taunted the then Villa goalkeeper, Peter Enckelman, after his error had led to a own goal. Harper was handed a four-month jail sentence, and was banned from the ground for life. The authorities are likely to ask exactly how, in view of the fixtures reputation, a second such encroachment was able to take place.

    There is deep concern that, 17 years on, violence among supporters is becoming more prevalent. A statement from the Professional Footballers Association called for a full inquiry and voiced unease at the proliferation of recent incidents.

    The PFA is concerned that weve seen elements of this type of behaviour coming back into the game, with several high-profile crowd related issues this season, it said. We must address issues of violence and racist chanting this should include continued efforts with regards to education but be underpinned by strong punishments and sanctions.

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    The statement made particular reference to an incident on Friday during the Scottish Premiership match between Hibernian and Rangers at the formers Easter Road stadium. Just before half-time, the Rangers captain James Tavernier bent down to pick the ball up but saw it kicked from his hands by a pitch invader, who subsequently squared up to him. It followed an incident at the same venue six days previously in which a glass bottle was thrown from the stands as the Celtic winger Scott Sinclair prepared to take a corner. Leeann Dempster, the Hibs chief executive, refused to rule out closing sections of the ground following the Tavernier incident.

    Last month, the Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke was on the receiving end of sectarian abuse during a match at Rangers, with sections of the support chanti ng, Sad Fenian bastard.

    On 4 March another derby in Englands Championship, between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday, was marred when a bottle and a coin were thrown at the United defender Jack OConnell. The Blades manager, Chris Wilder, expressed his disappointment that the fixtures atmosphere had gone pretty hostile now.

    While unsavoury behaviour among football supporters is hardly a new phenomenon, the reasons behind the current spate will give rise to discussion, too, with the spilling-over of abuse that is regularly traded in a highly permissive social-media environment one potential factor that may be considered.

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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