A Birmingham City fan has been jailed for attacking Aston Villa footballer Jack Grealish on the pitch. Paul Mitchell, 27, pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to assault and a charge of encroaching on to the playing surface during Sunday’s derby match.
In separate incidents, Glasgow Rangers captain James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan during Friday’s Scottish Premiership clash, while Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was shoved by an Arsenal supporter who ran on to the pitch at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
In light of the circumstances from the weekend and as a safeguard against further threats to players, representatives of football’s governing bodies and club owners met on Monday to allow players’ mothers to steward football crowds on match days.
Ex-England and Liverpool player and now Glasgow Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he feared for the safety of his players after three pitch invasions in as many days in British stadiums.
Gerrard said: “My concerns are my own players and stopping similar incidents. If those players had had their mothers policing the crowd on Friday you can be pretty sure the Hibs fan would have been dragged out of the stadium by his earlobe before he even thought about setting foot onto the pitch.”
Under guidelines agreed by football authorities mothers will patrol the touch lines keeping an eye on the crowd and will have the power to remove anyone from the crowd looking shifty, possessing a potty mouth, getting altogether too giddy or just giving the mother a ‘funny feeling’.
During moments of close proximity, such as throw-ins and corners, mothers will gather and form a human shield between players and fans.
Michael Brunskill, from the Football Supporters’ Federation, said there was not enough evidence to support reintroducing fences around pitches as a security measure but agrees in principle with tightening security.
Michael did have reservations about the extent of influence mothers would have over football crowds. Would the mothers force fans to clap opposing team’s goals? Would there be ‘quiet times’ because the mothers couldn’t hear themselves think? And would there be naughty steps?
Football authorities also gave players’ mothers permission to assist with player injuries by administering a mug of hot milk and a biscuit. They will also carry tissues if a player needs to spit, and of course clean underwear, just in case.
Further protocols agreed were:
Mothers will also be allowed to form a wall in front of ‘the wall’ defending their sons defending a free kick.
Players when running down the pitch away from their mothers must periodically turn and wave back to them.
And crucially, all players must hug their mothers first after scoring a goal.
Man City’s manager Pep Guardiola added: “We already have players’ mothers operating on match days, I do nothing. They take care of tactics, it’s why we pass the ball around so much before having shot on goal, the mothers insist everyone on the team gets a kick.”