The use of flares and smoke bombs has become an extremely hot topic in both English and European football. Over the last few years it has become a regular procedure to see the bright burn associated with pyrotechnics lighting up the away end at football matches across Europe. However the FA feel the need for change. A recent campaign has been launched in an attempt to ‘educate’ the football fan on the dangers that surround pyrotechnics.
So what are pyrotechnics? Pyrotechnics and flares are created for use in marine distress and are designed not to be extinguished easily or quickly. They contain chemicals and burn at temperatures of 1600°C, which is the melting point of steel. Another commodity associated with football supporters is smoke bombs. Smoke bombs are mainly used recreationally in paint balling and war games, but these also burn at high temperatures and are designed to be used in wide open spaces. They are reportedly 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. It is illegal to enter a football stadium with one and set it off.
With this in mind, you may ask why fans still persist in taking part in activity such as this. Well in fact, according to the FA’s latest report it is only a very small minority who think it is acceptable to use pyrotechnics within a football stadium. Studies 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 think flares and smoke bombs are a fire risk and 79% consider them to be a health hazard.
So what about this minority of fans who do not see the use of pyrotechnics as a dangerous activity? It is clear the FA’s campaign is targeted at this group in particular, with its attempt to ‘educate’ people about the situation. The general consensus is that some supporters see pyro and smoke bombs as harmless fun, which aids the atmosphere at games. In fairness, the FA have only recently started to try and clamp down on the issue. Many believe this has been influenced by the England vs Poland game in October 2013. The World Cup qualifier saw a large amount of Poland fans light up flares in an attempt to silence and intimidate the Wembley crowd.
It has been well documented that smoke bombs and pyrotechnics can be detrimental to your health when used incorrectly, however at the same time there is no doubt the use of pyro can certainly add to the atmosphere within a football ground. Cases of pyro misuse at football matches is on the rise within the UK and it is fair to say some European nations take it to a whole new level.
Naturally there comes a time when one must stop and think about the risk you are putting on not just yourself but on others around you. It is the responsibility of the FA and FIFA to properly educate fans on the dangers of pyro misuse. Until this happens, supporters can hardly be blamed for partaking in activity to which they see harmless.
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