The Premier League, The Football League and The FA have launched a new education campaign on the danger of pyrotechnics at football grounds, after a rising number of incidents involving flares and smoke bombs, including cases where staff and fans have been injured.
In October 2013, a linesman was struck by a firework at Aston Villa, whilst last season a 15-year-old boy suffered lung damage from a smoke bomb thrown at Wigan, according to media reports on the subject.
It has also been found that children are being used as “mules” to bring the pyrotechnics into grounds. In one incident at a Premier League match last season a child aged around eight was seen passing pyrotechnics from his rucksack to adults around him, who then let them off inside the ground.
The use of pyrotechnics is a relatively new phenomenon in English football, and is much more prevalent in Europe. However, it is a rising issue: in the 2010/11 season there were just eight recorded incidents but by the 2012/13 season, this number had climbed to 172. Recent research has indicated that over half of fans have seen pyrotechnics at a match.
The football authorities are keen to point out that flares, designed for marine distress, contain chemicals that burn at temperatures of 1600°C, the melting point of steel.
Similarly, smoke bombs, whilst used recreationally in paintballing and war games, also burn at high temperatures and are designed to be used in wide open spaces.
Commenting on the campaign, Policing Minister Damian Green said: “Flares are very dangerous and can cause severe injuries…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.”
Further information about the campaign can be accessed at www.facepyrofacts.co.uk.