The Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s clubs and fans are being urged to back a new campaign to stamp out the huge rise in the number of flares and smoke bombs being set off at football grounds.
According to the latest figures from the Football Policing Unit, pyrotechnics have already been used or seized at 131 matches in the Premier League alone this season and their use is spreading rapidly in both the Football League and Non-League game.
Designed for maritime use, their appearance at matches throughout the game has doubled in the first three months of this season, prompting the Football Association to launch a new supporter education campaign to stamp out the use of dangerous pyrotechnics in and around grounds.
The football authorities want to see more prosecutions for misuse of pyrotechnics, usually punishable by a three-year banning order, as part of their campaign to douse the terrace trend. The concern from the authorities is that they pose a serious risk to safety and public order. With flares burning at up to 1,600F, and smoke signals containing toxic fumes, they are extremely hazardous in the confined space of a football ground, and policing minister Damian Green has warned that “someone could get killed”.
To help better inform fans, clubs from the Premier League down are being asked to support the FA’s campaign on the dangers of pyrotechnics by running adverts in their grounds, programmes and on their official websites. The campaign, which features posters parodying football chants, also has an online presence at: www.facepyrofacts.co.uk. There are real-life examples of how pyrotechnics are not, as pyro users attest, ‘innocent fun’, but can have serious life-changing repercussions.
The FA’s initiative follows research by the governing body into the growing phenomenon imported from European football and a new survey of supporters showing that the vast majority support a crackdown over health and safety fears.
Researchers found that a third of fans have been affected by pyrotechnics and 78 per cent want more action taken against pyro users. Over half of fans have now witnessed pyrotechnics at a match, while 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.
Disturbingly, the survey also revealed that children as young as eight have been found smuggling pyrotechnics into grounds on behalf of adults.
Alan Weir, head of medical services at St John Ambulance, who are backing the campaign, highlighted the dangers supporters face and action they should take. “We know that [our] volunteers have treated people for burns and smoke inhalation caused by flares at several football grounds,” said Weir. “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”