Jack attacker: ‘Harshly treated’

Aston University sociology professor Cashmore says Mitchell sentence was too harsh and reaction was ‘hysterical’

By Phil Jennings

A BIRMINGHAM-BASED sociology professor says that the pitch invader who punched Jack Grealish during the Blues derby at St Andrew’s was ‘treated harshly’.

Paul Mitchell was jailed for 14 weeks after running on to the pitch and attacking the Villa skipper from behind.

He was also given a life ban by Birmingham City.

But, says the Daily Star, the punishment was too great according to Ellis Cashmore, visiting professor in Sociology at Aston University.

Prof Cashmore said: “That seems to be a pretty harsh sentence to me.

“You go to watch a game on a Sunday afternoon and you end up in jail.

“There has been a hysterical reaction, people are being sensitive, people’s passions come out in football.

“Fans are not spectators, they are more than that and they feel that they can influence games. It’s almost illogical to stay where they are in their seats, they are going to be incensed and do irrational things.

“It’s just a shame that some of his (Mitchell’s) pals didn’t just grab him, hold him for 20 seconds.

“If that had happened then he’d have realised what he was doing and not gone on. Instead they were probably pushing him to go on.”

Prof Cashmore says incidents like these are rare and almost impossible to stop.

He added: “It’s unusual for a fan to run on to the pitch but it has happened before and nothing can be done about it,” he said.

“I think there is adequate security. I remember the problems with barriers, fans would tear them down and the Millwall fans chanted “we are animals”.

“If you treat fans like animals then they will respond in kind.

“I would do nothing, I wouldn’t say there is more of a problem now and the best way is to ignore it.

“In the 1970s and 1980s when there was violence I often thought the police presence was more provocative than anything else, cops everywhere, you can over police fans and they react.

“Alcohol, of course, as has always been the case going back to when they used to take crates of beer into grounds. They’d all get drunk as the game went on and we all know when it’s boozy it’s likely to kick off.

“Football is unique along with say boxing and some other sports where they stir people up. It’s the background, the emotion, fans feel it belongs to them, it’s their game and something they are born into.

“There have been pitch invasions ever since the game started in the late 19th century, it was common place to attack the referee if you were unhappy.

“Up to the 1960s it was normal to run onto the pitch in every game, they could have had weapons, they didn’t always run on celebrating it was headless, and the players got off the pitch as quickly as they could, it was all part of the excitement of football.

“It’s very unusual these days, football changed after Hillsborough when there was a very real sense that the game was in terminal decline.

“If you think back to the 1970s and 1980s it is horrifying to think of what may have gone on, for example, when they fixed venues for fights.

“These (player attacks) aren’t a big danger and I don’t expect to see many incidents like this.

“Birmingham against Villa is always an extraordinary game.

“It’s a big city with lots of ambition and the derby is a very nasty one. I don’t think I can remember a peaceful one.”

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