The Premier League, The Football League and The FA have launched a supporter education campaign on the danger of pyrotechnics at football grounds.
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.
To help better inform fans who are not aware, 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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. The child came into the ground with pyrotechnics in his rucksack and was then seen passing them to members of an adult group who let them off inside the ground. The child himself did not ignite any pyrotechnics.
There is general confusion among fans about key pyrotechnic facts. Those who undertook the research were asked six true and false statements about pyrotechnics: only 8% of respondents answered all six correctly, 29% answered five correctly and 31% answered four correctly.
When asked about the restrictions on pyrotechnics at football grounds, the majority of fans (82%) know it is illegal to go to a stadium with flares or smoke bombs. However, over half (53%) incorrectly believe that they are legal in most European football grounds. The six statements about flares and smoke bombs which fans were asked for a true and false answer were:
It is legal to enter a sporting ground in possession of a flare or a smoke bomb
Flares can burn at up to 1600°C
Possession of a flare or smoke bomb can result in being banned from football grounds for up to three years
Flares and smoke bombs are less dangerous than fireworks
In most European countries, the use of flares and smoke bombs in football grounds is allowed.
In general, it is illegal for a person to possess a flare or smoke bomb