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Joint Pyrotechnics Education Campaign Launched

Tue 3rd Dec 2013 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

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 with 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%) think flares and smoke bombs are a fire risk and 79% consider them to be a health hazard.

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 like 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.

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 just eight incidents of disorder across the Premier League, Football League and Football Conference and the domestic cup competitions. In 2011/12 this rose to 72 and last season it jumped to 172 incidents. During the 2013/14 season (up to the end of October 2013) there have been 96 incidents.

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.

Over half of fans (51%) have now 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.

The research found that parents, who make up an increasing number of Premier League match attendees, were particularly concerned. Two thirds of them claim that the increased use of pyrotechnics is putting them off bringing their children. A further 81% of parents support more action for tackling pyrotechnics.

Cathy Long, Head of Supporter Services at the Premier League, said: “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. 

“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.”

A disturbing element of increased pyrotechnics has been the involvement of children. It is not uncommon for ‘mules’ to bring the pyrotechnics into a ground on behalf of others, and in one incident at a Premier League match last season a child aged around eight was observed aiding those involved in pyrotechnic use.

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.”

Amanda Jacks, Caseworker at The Football Supporters' Federation added: "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?”

Image: Poland Fans at Wembley v England. Action Images / Andrew Couldridge

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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