Monday 02 December 2013
The Premier League, The Football League and The FA have launched a supporter education campaign on the danger of pyrotechnics at football grounds, following research among fans that they would like more knowledge on how to address it.
The research, which was conducted among 1,635 Premier League supporters, found that 87% of fans believe that pyrotechnics such as flares and smoke bombs are dangerous at matches and that 86% were concerned for their safety. The same number (86%) also think flares and smoke bombs are a fire risk and 79% consider them to be a health hazard.
"We just want everyone to be safe and able to still come to the game"
To help better inform fans who are not aware, clubs throughout the Premier League, Football League and Football Conference will be supporting a new campaign on the dangers on pyrotechnics by running adverts in their grounds and on club media such as programmes and websites.
The campaign, which features posters parodying football chants, also has an online presence www.facepyrofacts.co.uk. There are real-life examples of how pyrotechnics are not, as pyro users attest, “innocent fun”, but can have serious repercussions.
Among the facts revealed in the advertising are that it is illegal to enter a football ground with a pyro and that supporters risk jail and banning orders even for being in possession of one.
Flares are used for marine distress and are designed not to be extinguished easily or quickly. They contain chemicals and burn at temperatures of 1600°C, the melting point of steel. Smoke bombs are mainly used recreationally in paintballing and war games, but these also burn at high temperatures and are designed to be used in wide open spaces.
They are dangerous for those with asthma or breathing difficulties and can cause panic in a tightly packed crowd. They are not designed for use in confined spaces and it is illegal to enter a football stadium with one and set it off.
The use of pyrotechnics is a relatively new phenomenon in English football, with the trend imported from Europe where the issue is much more prevalent. It is a rising issue: in the 2010/11 season there were eight incidents across the Barclays Premier League, Football League and Football Conference and the domestic cup competitions. In 2011/12 this rose to 72 and last season it was 172 incidents. During the 2013/14 season (up to the end of October 2013) there have so far been 96 incidents.
This season clubs have been using specially trained dogs ("pyro dogs") to prevent pyrotechnics being smuggled into stadiums and although the use of pyrotechnics is still rare this is an issue that many fans would like addressed: 78% of those surveyed would support more action against the proliferation of flares and smoke bombs.
More than half of fans have witnessed pyrotechnics at a match, and 36% have been directly affected: 24% have had their view of the match obscured, 10% have suffered from smoke inhalation and 2% have been affected by heat from a flare.
"I want the courts to deal in the strongest way possible with fans who still illegally smuggle pyrotechnics into football grounds"
The research found that parents, who make up an increasing number of Barclays Premier League match attendees, were particularly concerned. Two thirds of them claim the increased use of pyrotechnics is putting them off bringing their children. A further 81% of parents support more action for tackling pyrotechnics.
“We have launched this education campaign because we want fans to be fully aware of the dangers of pyrotechnics and realise the harm they can cause to other supporters," Cathy Long, Head of Supporter Services at the Premier League, said. “Pyrotechnics are not innocent fun, they can be very dangerous and there are victims.
"Fans, club staff and match officials have already been injured, some of them severely, and supporters who bring them are doing so illegally and can face jail and long bans. We don’t want that, we just want everyone to be safe and able to still come to the game.”
Policing Minister Damian Green called on courts to come down hard on those who look to use pyrotechnics at football matches.
"I want to see the courts taking this problem seriously and dealing in the strongest way possible with fans who still illegally smuggle pyrotechnics into football grounds,” he said.
After the campaign was launched Aston Villa said that they would consult West Midlands Police over a pyrotechnics amnesty before the next home match against Manchester United this month. Villa will encourage any supporters in possession of flares, smoke bombs and other pyrotechnic devices to hand these over anonymously and safely in order to protect themselves and fellow fans from the extreme dangers that pyros present.