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Redknapp claims innocence for Birmingham’s overspending, deduction

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Harry Redknapp claims that he is not at all responsible for the nine-point recently handed to Birmingham City as punishment for “breaching profitability and sustainability rules” in the EFL Championship.

[ MORE: Mourinho “preparing” for next job; expects to start “in June” ]

Despite managing the club for five months, from April to September 2017 — a period in which the Blues signed nine new players (six for transfer fees, three on free transfers) and saw the overall wage bill continue to rise — Redknapp has washed his hands of the entire situation and believes “I don’t think any of the signings were mine” — quotes from the Guardian:

“There were three lads from Brentford that came in [Jota, Harlee Dean and Maxime Colin]. They were all good players but they weren’t on my shopping list. I’d never even see any of them play, they were brought in by other people above my head.

“We brought in Isaac Vassell for $1.3 million [from Luton] and he will be worth massive money in my opinion. He was an absolute bargain, but I can’t even take credit for that because he was nothing to do with me, to be truthful. I don’t think any of the signings were mine. I was taking [John] Ruddy on a free transfer from Norwich and instead they brought in David Stockdale from Brighton. The director of football [Jeff Vetere] wasn’t brought in by me either.”

Only, with regard to the signing of Spanish midfielder Jota, Redknapp had the following to say hours before his signing was made official, per Guardian columnist Daniel Taylor:

“I’m hoping it will be done. It’s not done yet. I just identify them, then it’s up to other people to get them in.”

[thinking-face emoji slash upside down smiling emoji]

While Redknapp is hugely disingenuous in accepting zero responsibility, those in charge of the various clubs at which he has run up massive debts managed could try something entirely new: tell the man, “No.”

Birmingham City to get nine-point deduction, unexpected relegation battle

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From very comfortably mid-table, to a handful of points away from the relegation zone — that’ll be reality for Birmingham City once the English Football League hands the EFL Championship side a nine-point deduction for “breaching profitability and sustainability rules,” according to a report from the BBC.

[ MORE: Report: Man United stars lined up for exit ]

The Blues, despite losing four straight league games, currently sit 13th in the Championship — seven points off the promotion playoffs, and 14 clear of the drop zone — but will find themselves in 18th with eight games still to play.

The penalty stems from losses in excess of $17 million per year over a three-year period, which is outside the acceptable window under EFL rules. Birmingham will, however, avoid any additional penalties, including transfer embargoes.

[ MORE: Ranking Premier League Player of the Year candidates ]

The club recently revealed a loss of £37.5m from July 2017 to June 2018, a direct result of player wages rising from $29 million for the season to just over $50 million after a flurry of transfer activity in the summer of 2017.

Birmingham will be the first club to be punished under the EFL’s profitability and sustainability regulations, put in place at the start of the 2016-17 season

Man City completes epic three-goal comeback to top Swansea in FA Cup

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Sergio Aguero scored in the 88th minute to complete a three-goal comeback as Manchester City tops Swansea City 3-2 in FA Cup action on Saturday.

20 minutes in, the Swans stunned the Premier League leaders by scoring twice in the opening half-hour to take an early 2-0 lead. Fabian Delph scythed down Connor Roberts in the box and Matt Grimes buried an emphatic penalty to take the lead and set the Liberty Stadium alight.

Nine minuets later, the Swans doubled the lead with an absolutely stunning buildup that made the home side look more like the visitors. As Swansea produced a glittering counter, Daniel James cut inside from the left flank and fed Nathan Dyer who touched to Bersant Celina to finished fabulously with a curler.

Celina, a Kosovo international and former Man City youth product, scored in his third straight FA Cup game and Swansea secured a 2-0 lead into halftime.

The visitors needed a bit of luck to find their way back in, and they got that with 21 minutes to go as the ball took a few Man City bounces in the box and it fell to Aguero who found Bernardo Silva for the opener. United States international Cameron Carter-Vickers was then called for a foul on Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes to go, and it put Aguero at the spot.

While the Argentine’s penalty struck the left post and bounded parallel to the goal mouth, it deflected off goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt‘s leg and found its way in to level the score.

Then, the controversy. In the 88th minute, Aguero bagged the winning strike as he redirected Bernardo Silva’s cross into the back of the net with his head, having beat Carter-Vickers to the ball. Replays, however, showed that Aguero was clearly leaning offside on the delivery.

The play was not reviewed, as while VAR is made available at some of the FA Cup matches as the English governing body continues to slowly roll out the new technology, this match was not one of those, leaving the referees exposed to their own mistakes. Nevertheless, Manchester City is moving on to the FA Cup semifinals, while Swansea will refocus on the Championship where they sit 15th in the table.

Fan who punched Grealish jailed; gets 10-year stadium ban

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The justice system in the UK has acted swiftly, as the fan who punched Jack Grealish on Sunday has already been sent to prison.

Paul Mitchell, a Birmingham City fan, pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison. He has also been banned from going to any football stadium in the UK for the next 10 years and was fined $458.

Mitchell, 27, ran onto the pitch during the second-city derby in England’s second-tier on Sunday and punched Aston Villa star Grealish.

The Villa captain was knocked to the floor, but then had the last laugh as he went on to score the winning goal in a 1-0 victory.

[ MORE: Grealish reacts to being punched ]

Birmingham City have released a statement on the fan being jailed.

“Birmingham City Football Club welcomes the sentence handed down to Paul Mitchell by Birmingham Magistrates today. What he did was unacceptable and has no place in football. The Club can confirm that Mr Mitchell is banned from our home ground, the St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium, for life. And nor will he have access to purchase tickets for away games involving Birmingham City Football Club, or have tickets purchased on his behalf.”

“The Club has also banned another supporter for life for a series of vile and malicious Tweets on social media, relating to Jack Grealish and his family. The individual in question remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by West Midlands Police.”

Click play on the video above to watch the shocking incident, as three separate incidents involving fans running on the pitch took place over the weekend in the UK.

Glasgow Rangers James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan in Edinburgh on Friday, while Man United’s Chris Smalling was barged into by an Arsenal fan who ran onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium in celebration on Sunday.

Players must shun pitch invaders or risk more on-field attacks

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Over the past few years, pitch invaders have become a constant bane of stadium security in the game across the world. The stewards guard the sideline and give chase when needed, but the publicity received often sways those bold enough to jump the fence.

Fortunately, the tamer version of the events largely outnumber the more aggressive ones, but no matter how sparse, the violent incidents are reprehensible in a manner that makes them inexcusable. The players are exposed on the field, and pitch invaders who evade immediate capture pose a significant threat if filled with ill-intentions.

Consider the incident with Jack Grealish on Sunday morning. The Aston Villa star, captaining the side for the first time, was rushed by a fan in the stands who sucker punched the 23-year-old in the head from behind. Grealish did not see it coming, and it is by nothing outside of blind luck that the punch was not more devastating.

Now consider the possibilities of a violent pitch invader reaching a player with a more sinister instrument besides his bare fist. If fans can sneak pyrotechnics into a stadium, they surely can work in a knife or a shiv or something worse. Just a single occurrence of that nature would send shockwaves through the soccer community and undoubtedly result in sweeping changes in stadium security and fan access to the game.

So what has buoyed fans to run onto the pitch at such a rate? Consider the aforementioned tamer versions of these incidents. Players with worldwide star power like Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo have all faced pitch invaders with clearly harmless intentions in the recent past, and have treated them with kindness, often interacting in a positive manner with these folks, even occasionally offering to take a selfie, sign their shirt, or give up their own clothing or gear. Often times those running onto the pitch are children, hoping to earn a moment with their lifelong idol, unaware to fully grasp the true extent of the consequences.

While those moments are precious and make for beautiful opportunities to praise the graciousness of the players, they have potentially ugly side effects. As the benign pitch invaders make waves across the viral community, it serves to spark and embolden those who may have more malicious intentions. In the end, it is impossible to know the true nature of a pitch invader’s intent until they reach the player they intend to target.

Players, therefore, have a responsibility to their fellow athletes to turn away and shun pitch invaders and allow stewards and security officials to do their job protecting those exposed on the field. As unfortunate as it is, the days of adorable moments between players and pitch invaders should end soon, or the game risks the safety of its players and the relatively generous access to their favorite clubs and role models they enjoy these days.

Pitch invasion has no place in the game of football, innocuous or otherwise, and when stadium security fails as the first line of defense to protect those on the field, it falls to the players to stop glamorizing the attention-seekers and do their best to dissuade any more violent encounters.