Flares at the football: police fear serious injury
'No pyro, no party' attitude among fans, as authorities fight back after linesman hit by bomb
POLICE and football authorities are preparing for a clampdown on flares and fireworks at matches after a linesman was struck by a smoke bomb thrown from the crowd during the game between Aston Villa and Spurs on Sunday and figures revealed a huge upsurge in pyrotechnics at games.
Since the season began in August there have been 131 incidents involving flares at grounds in England, and 44 arrests. That compares to a total of almost 199 incidents and 70 arrests in the whole of last season.
Sky Sports reports that a "major campaign" to counter the use of pyrotechnics is now being planned. It is "aimed at educating fans about the dangers of flares and smoke devices, [and] will be launched by the Premier League, the Football Association and supporter groups in the next fortnight," it says.
According to The Guardian, "there is growing concern among police and football authorities at the scale of the problem". The issue was flagged up as a concern at the start of the season.
Andy Holt, the South Yorkshire deputy chief constable and lead on football policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the paper that sniffer dogs searching for gunpowder had proved successful at some grounds and could be introduced more widely.
"The craze, modelled on the use of flares and smoke bombs by fans in Germany and Italy, is believed to have started among travelling Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United fans," reports the Guardian. "It tends to be most prevalent among fans travelling away, where there is less chance of being identified and banned. There is concern that the 'no pyro, no party' culture that has sprung up among some fans, who view the use of pyrotechnics as a way to bring edge and atmosphere back to modern stadiums, could end in serious injury."
Flares can burn at temperatures of 1,600C and the Daily Telegraph notes that earlier this season some supporters at Anfield had to be treated for smoke inhalation when Crystal Palace fans let off a device at Liverpool.
Guardian blogger John Crace, who was at the Spurs game against Villa at which linesman David Bryan was struck, wonders how flares can be smuggled into grounds. "Maybe the stewards were only looking for booze; that's all I've ever seen confiscated in the past," he writes.
But he also notes that flares can add to the atmosphere. "I was at the England v Poland game at Wembley last week. At the start of the game a large section of the Polish fans lit red flares. In its way, it was impressive, awe-inspiring, and no one got hurt. As far as I know, no one complained or even got arrested." ·