Despite being prohibited by both law and ground regulations, there is a rise in the use of flares and smoke bombs at matches. Many fans don’t appreciate the possible danger they pose.
During West Ham’s recent three nil win over Spurs together the recent losses against Man City and Everton at home we all have seen blue smoke flares set off by away fans.
Back in February a young teenager died after being hit in the face by a smoke flare in Bolivia which had been thrown by fans into the away support. A 17-year-old Corinthians fan later confessed that he set off a flare that killed a 14-year-old Bolivian boy in the Copa Libertadores match.
I don’t want to be a kill joy but is this smoke flare craze worth killing or injuring someone, a criminal record, a prison sentence or a lengthy football banning order?
On Saturday visiting Man City fans let off two Smoke flares in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower concourse. Releasing these smoke flares in enclosed spaces creates health concerns for asthmatics. I am told two women were physically sick from the effects of the smoke on Saturday before kick off.
I tweeted out about these smoke flares with a hash tag of #BanThem and was met with a torrent of abuse from Man City fans who called me a C word, a soft git, a clean shirt and a melt (whatever that is?) This was before the Spurs incident with the linesman on Sunday,
Everton fans did the same a few weeks before with smoke drifting across the Sir Trevor Brooking lower.
Some Spurs fans have been quick to point out no action was taken against the three smoke flares which were let off when we beat Spurs 3-0 a few weeks ago. Spurs fans claim the smoke drifted into the disabled area in front of the away fans and several disabled children were evacuated from the area when the flares were let off. Some even claimed the flares were thrown into the disabled area. I was too far away to know whether there is any truth in these claims but others who were close to the front at White Hart Lane might be able to testify better.
Sunday’s incident involving a Spurs fan throwing a smoke flare which hit a linesman will surely bring new focus on this new problem and I can see the FA coming down hard on clubs who fail to control their away fans.
In February this year two Chelsea supporters were been sent to prison for one month after being arrested for possessing smoke bombs at an away match against Swansea in the Capital One Cup.They were banned from attending football games for six years, while a third supporter involved was also banned for the same length of time. Chelsea have barred the trio from Stamford Bridge for a ten years each. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2272010/Chelsea-supporters-banned-10-years-smoke-bomb.html
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, the national lead on football policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, revealed that it is a growing problem.
Last year we saw an increase in the use of flares and pyrotechnic devices by nearly 140 per cent compared to the previous season, arrests for the possession of a firework or a flare were up over 150 per cent so it is certainly something we are seeing becoming more prevalent in today’s game and it’s a real worry for us. It is in no way appropriate to let off either smoke flares or fireworks inside a stadium. Those that argue that it gives a European flavour to the occasion are plain wrong.’
Earlier this year the government warned these smoke flares could burn as hot as 1,600 degrees Celsius for as long as an hour.
Hopefully West Ham away fans will stop copying this new craze and the club will have zero tolerance for away fans letting them off at the Boleyn Ground too.
On Monday I interviewed Amanda Jacks, Football Supporters Federation Case Worker about Smoke Flares for the West Ham Podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast.
You can find the full interview and our review of the Man City v West Ham match below or at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk