Over the course of this season, a number of high profile incidents concerning the use of flares and smoke bombs within football grounds have caught my attention. These pyrotechnics have interrupted the matches going on, caused damage to stadia and its facilities, and perhaps more importantly interfered with the players and fans.
Over the last few weeks Albion Rovers, Celtic, Falkirk, Motherwell and Rangers have all suffered the aftermath after a flare or smoke bomb had been set alight and was either thrown on to the field of play, or let off in the stadium, causing a massive cloud of smoke to surround the fans trying to watch and support their team.
What is extremely worrying though, is the temperature that some of these devices burn at – some reaching temperatures of up to 1600 degrees. This temperature is high enough to melt even metal, so think of the damage which could be caused to someone should it strike them in the face.
Although there have been no confirmed incidents of this happening, all of the clubs affected thus far named above have had either their games disrupted or had to pay to repair areas of the stadium – including the pitch – to make sure that their facilities are in the best condition possible for the people that matter: the fans.
Not only are the clubs involved being affected – in the form of fines, repair bills or playing, but the fans too are affected. When these smoke bombs are sent hurtling towards the pitch, smoke is trailed from the point it is thrown, to the point where it lands. This impairs the vision of the fans in the line of fire momentarily, but in the case of where a smoke bomb is let off in the crowd and remains there, these fans are unable to see the match clearly for several minutes. These acts are just selfish.
So called fans are entering stadiums all over the country, at every level of Scottish Football and are harming their fellow fans’ own enjoyment of the football match that they have paid good money to travel to and support their team in a football match.
Fans which have been found to have used either a flare or smoke bomb in these incidents have been subsequently banned from their clubs matches. This is a strong tactic used by the club, but will benefit so many fans should the warnings and consequences be accepted by other fans who intend to disrupt a football match.
The other alternative is increasing security at football games and individually frisking everyone attending the games. Football should not have to come to this. It is not an airport where there should be the risk of mass destruction and death, but at the rate that these flares and smoke bombs are becoming found at football grounds in the country, that is becoming an increasing likelihood.
A fan survey in England found that one in three fans have been affected by these devices, with 87% thinking that these are dangerous and 78% calling for increased action upon those found to be using them at stadiums.
These are shockingly high figures and make me wonder what the points in the flares are? In my mind, flares are used in war, when a soldier needs to signal to his comrades that he is in need of support, or used by people lost at sea to give a signal to rescuers.
Smoke bombs too, in my mind, are used by the army to affect enemy vision to give the user some sort of camouflage in his/her quest to win a battle.
Football matches are a battle. Fan rivalry is a battle. But we are not fighting to win a war, we’re playing or watching our side try to win a match. There shouldn’t be connotations of death in a football stadium. Stadiums over the country are supposed to bring joy and entertainment with some occasional heartbreak to fans.
There shouldn’t be an increased risk of an asthma attack. Or a risk of fans facing catastrophic burns to their bodies. Nor should there be any reason for football clubs to have to pay for damage caused by the fans. The fans are supposed to give their football club the respect it deserves. They are representing not only themselves and their fellow supporters, but the club as well. Scottish football is at a relative low right now on the field. If our teams cannot perform well on it, we as the fans should at least gain some respect of it. The use of these pyrotechnics is prohibiting that.
Over the next few weeks, there is going to be a clampdown on the incidents concerning both flares and smoke bombs. Hopefully when the clubs and governing bodies have taken some further actions, the number of incidents will hopefully decrease and by before the end of the season there will be no reported incidents and Scottish Football can begin to move forward both off the field, and on it.
For a final word on it Paul Goodwin, Head of Supporters Direct Scotland, gave his organisations views:”We fail to see what benefit these smoke bombs and flares bring to the game and we believe their use must be stopped. Fans want to enjoy the game in a safe and comfortable surroundings and the use of these items curtails that”.