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Ashley Young on Recent Pitch Invasions by Fans: 'Something Has Got to Be Done'

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 11, 2019

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 6: Ashley Young of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United at Parc des Princes stadium on March 6, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Manchester United and England star Ashley Young has said "something has got to be done" to improve player protection in football following a recent spike in incidents involving fans attacking those on the pitch.

Defender Chris Smalling was shoved by a supporter who ran onto the Emirates Stadium turf during Arsenal's 2-0 win over United on Sunday. Young told reporters he expected more to prevent similar incidents in future:

"That's the third time a fan has managed to get on the pitch (this weekend). What if they are carrying something? The players will be in danger.

"It's definitely something the FA, the Premier League and FIFA have got to do something about. I don't know if it's extra stewarding or what but it's a concern with the one earlier today and the one on Chrissy. Something has got to be done."

That happened on the same day that Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish was punched by a Birmingham City fan 10 minutes into their Second City Derby clash at Villa Park, via Sky Sports (UK only):

Grealish remained on and scored the only goal of the game, but journalist John Cross told beIN Sports presenter Carrie Brown the sport couldn't afford for players to be at threat from occurrences like this:

beIN SPORTS @beINSPORTS

"I want to see football show a really strong stance on this... As journalists we get searched but is every fan searched to that degree?" @johncrossmirror & @CarrieBrownTV discuss today's fan attack on Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. #beINPL #ARSMUN #BCFC #AVFC 📺 HD11 https://t.co/0knU8boPSW

The supporter who attacked Grealish was named as Paul Mitchell, of Rubery, Worcestershire. The 27-year-old was sentenced to 14 weeks prison on Monday after admitting assault and encroachment on to the pitch, per BBC News.

Unai Emery was happy to move above United up to fourth in the Premier League, but the Arsenal manager decried those interfering on the pitch: "I don't want that. It's not in my control. I think we can enjoy the support, today I think they helped us, but we need to do it with respect."

Another incident on Friday evening saw Hibernian fan Cameron Mack, 21, banned from attending Scottish football matches after he jumped an advertisement board to confront Rangers captain James Tavernier, per BBC Sport.

The Football Association issued a statement in response to the events that unfolded in the Premier League and Championship, per journalist Simon Stone:

Simon Stone @sistoney67

FA: “This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour. Not only is it an offence to enter pitch, which could result in club ban + criminal charges but it also puts safety of player at risk. This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.”

A spate of attacks leaves questions as to whether the facilities currently in place to prevent fan interaction are sophisticated enough.

Journalist Ian Stafford called for Mack and Mitchell to be given strict bans from the sport:

Ian Stafford @IanStaffs

First Hibs now Birmingham City. Absolute no-no to run on to the pitch and attack players. Hope they both get banned for life from football - minimum. I am sure 99.9% of decent football fans agree.

Young, 33, has more than a decade's experience in England's top flight but admitted his shock at the recent increase in fan involvement, and player concerns highlight a major topic in need of address in Britain.

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