NEW CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE ON DANGER OF PYROTECHNICS
The Premier League, the Football League and the FA have joined together for a supporter education campaign on the danger of pyrotechnics at football grounds.
The initiative follows research revealing fans want more information on the problem. A third of fans have been affected by pyrotechnics and 78 per cent want more action taken against pyro users. Children as young as eight were found smuggling pyrotechnics into grounds on behalf of adults.
The research, which was conducted with 1,635 Premier League supporters, found that 87 per cent believe pyrotechnics such as flares and smoke bombs are dangerous at matches, and 86 per cent were concerned for their safety. The same number think flares and smoke bombs are a fire risk and 79 per cent consider them to be a health hazard.
To help inform fans, a website www.facepyrofacts.co.uk has been launched. It has real-life examples of how pyrotechnics are not innocent fun but can have serious repercussions. It explains 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.
Chelsea FC was one of the first clubs to warn fans of the risks and penalties involved. Two Chelsea supporters received 28 days imprisonment for possession of smoke bombs at a game at Swansea last season. They were also been banned from attending football games for six years, while a third supporter was banned for three years. All three were banned from Stamford Bridge for 10 years by Chelsea.
Spectators have been arrested for possession and use of pyros at Stamford Bridge as a result of increased vigilance and use of the comprehensive CCTV system.
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.
Over half of fans in the survey have now witnessed pyrotechnics at a match, and 36 per cent have been directly affected: 24 per cent have had their view of the match obscured, 10 per cent have suffered from smoke inhalation and two per cent have been affected by heat from a flare.
Policing Minister Damian Green said: 'Football fans might see images of football grounds in other parts of Europe full of smoke and light caused by pyrotechnic devices and think that they create a good atmosphere — but they do not. Flares are very dangerous and can cause severe injuries. We are very lucky that no one has been seriously injured or killed by a flare here for a long time.
'This campaign clearly sets out the dangers of flares and smoke bombs. 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.'
Alan Weir, head of medical services at St John Ambulance said: 'We know that St John Ambulance volunteers have treated people for burns and smoke inhalation caused by flares at several football grounds. These cases could have led to disfigurement or other serious injuries so we're advising fans to seek prompt emergency help should they come into contact with a flare to help prevent their injuries from getting worse.
Amanda Jacks, caseworker at the Football Supporters' Federation said: 'Whether it's down to concerns around injury, or issues with smoke blocking their view, this survey indicates that a clear majority of fans oppose the use of pyro inside stadiums. This tallies with anecdotal feedback from members.
'Despite this its use does seem to have been on the rise lately, particularly among those fans who see it as a way to improve the atmosphere. However, we would strongly advise against supporters taking flares or smoke bombs into stadiums.
'Putting aside arguments over rights and wrongs the simple fact is it's against the law and could be an inadvertent danger to other fans. Use pyro in stadiums and there's a good chance you'll be caught, get a criminal record, and long-term football banning order. You might even go to jail.
'Over the past few years we've spoken to lots of fans who've used pyro in grounds without realising the severity with which the law will come down on them. Is it really worth it?'