• Football

Flares could kill warns minister

ESPN staff
December 3, 2013
Flares were set off at Wembley when Poland faced England in October © Getty Images

The rising use of flares in British football could lead to someone being killed, according to policing minister Damian Green.

The warning comes as a survey found a third of British football supporters have been affected by pyrotechnics at stadiums while 86% are concerned for their safety.

Meanwhile, fans as young as eight are used as 'mules' to smuggle flares and smoke bombs into Premier League fixtures.

Pyrotechnic incidents have risen sharply in recent seasons, with the first three months of this season recording 96 such events.

In the whole of last season there was 172, while the season of 2011-12 recorded 72 incidents. Just eight pyrotechnic events were noted for the 2010-11 season.

"It's the biggest concern we've got among fans at the moment," Cathy Long, head of supporter services at the Premier League, told BBC Sport.

"There have been incidents across the world where people have had bad injuries or died. We've been lucky that our leagues haven't had such major issues yet, but we want to stop that from happening."

It is a sentiment shared by member for Ashford, Mr Green, who said: "someone could get killed".

More commonly associated with games on the continent, phrases such as 'no pyro, no party' are becoming popular in Britain, while pyrotechnic paraphernalia is becoming easier and cheaper to buy.

"The European influence is very, very strong," explained Football Supporters' Federation caseworker Amanda Jacks. "I've no doubt people think pyro creates a better atmosphere and enhances supporting their team. Whether or not that's true, it's illegal.

"A lot of supporters may be unaware that the use or possession of pyrotechnics is actually illegal and the ultimate sanction is prison.

"Rather than seeing 'no pyro, no party' I'd like to see 'pyro could mean prison' and that's a very real possibility if fans are convicted of using pyrotechnics. They might end up seeing Christmas inside a cell."

According to the UK Football Policing Unit, the clubs involved with the most pyrotechnic incidents (five) in 2013-14 were Manchester United, Everton and Wigan Athletic.

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