‘No return to fences or armed cops at football’: West Yorkshire police chief responds to Jack Grealish incident

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.
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A West Yorkshire Chief Superintendent has called for a ‘proportionate’ response in the wake of footballer Jack Grealish being attacked on the pitch.

Chief Supt’s Owen West said in a tweet: “One person did an idiotic and criminal act.

“It does not mean a return to fences or armed cops at football.”

Birmingham City fan Paul Mitchell, of Rubery, Worcestershire, was jailed for 14 weeks on Monday for attacking Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

He ran on to the pitch and hit Grealish from behind about 10 minutes into Sunday's game.

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Former Sheffiled United player and ex-Wales international David Cotterill said on Monday that armed officers should be drafted in to protect players, or there could be a return of fences at grounds.

And former Manchester United star Phil Neville said: “Drastic action is needed - either through points deductions or by emptying stadiums and making clubs play behind closed doors.”

Neville also referred to an incident on Sunday in which a fan ran on to the pitch and shoved Manchester United defender Chris Smalling at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, and an incident on Friday in which a man confronted Rangers captain James Tavernier during a draw with Hibernian.

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Chief Supt West added: “No one called for such measures when a handful of race goers were fighting in lumps a few weeks back.”

Chief Supt West was referring to ugly scenes at Haydock racecourse in Merseyside after distinct groups of men were seen throwing punches in the crowds.

Chief Supt Owen, who makes clear on his Twitter profile that the views are his and not those of West Yorkshire Police, works on a research project called Enable UK.

It aims to “support the development of a scientifically-derived understanding of efficient and effective policing responses to crowd events”.

The officer has previously written about the the idea of officers at big crowd events engaging in more dialogue and communication with fans, rather than ‘rows of yellow-jacketed public order police infamous for their reluctance to engage and communicate with the public’ treating fans as ‘hooligans’ or potential rioters.