FA vows to 'protect players' after Grealish and Smalling targeted by pitch invaders 11 months ago

FA vows to 'protect players' after Grealish and Smalling targeted by pitch invaders

The fan who assaulted Aston Villa winger Grealish has been banned for life from St Andrew's

Following two separate incidents of supporters running onto the pitch and confronting players within hours of each other, the Football Association has strongly condemned the escalation in aggressive fan behaviour.

Sunday saw both Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Manchester United defender Chris Smalling targeted by opposition fans. Paul Mitchell, the Birmingham City fan who aimed a punch at Grealish, was jailed for 14 weeks the following day.

He has also been banned from the Blues' St Andrews stadium for life and handed a ten-year court banning order from attending football matches. Meanwhile, Gary Cooper was charged with common assault for allegedly shoving Smalling.

An FA spokesperson said: “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.

“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.”