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CLUB: Zero tolerance approach to pyrotechnics

4 March 2016

Use of pyrotechnics is not permitted within club confines

Carlisle United Football Club would like to remind all supporters that the use of pyrotechnics of any kind within the stadium confines is an offence, and anyone caught in possession of such items will be dealt with as having committed a criminal act by the relevant authorities.

Fans are also reminded that they face banning orders or a possible jail term simply for possessing such items, due to the risk associated with use of pyrotechnics.

Flares are used for marine distress and are designed not to be extinguished easily or quickly. They contain a mixture of 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 either with one, or to 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 in 2012/13 it jumped to 172 incidents. During the 2013/14 season (up to the end of October 2013) there had been 96 incidents reported.

Although the use of pyrotechnics is still rare this is an issue that many fans would like addressed: In a recent survey 78% of those questioned 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 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 in 2012/13 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:

StatementAnswerCorrectIncorrect
It is legal to enter a sporting ground in possession of a flare or a smoke bombFALSE82%18%
Flares can burn at up to 1600°CTRUE78%22%
Possession of a flare or smoke bomb can result in being banned from football grounds for up to three yearsTRUE77%23%
Flares and smoke bombs are less dangerous than fireworksFALSE72%28%
In most European countries, the use of flares and smoke bombs in football grounds is allowed.FALSE47%53%
In general, it is illegal for a person to possess a flare or smoke bombFALSE45%55%
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Pyrotechnics are illegal at football grounds
Being in possession of a pyrotechnic device at a football match, or attempting to bring a pyrotechnic device into a football stadium, is a criminal offence under the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985. Any person committing such an offence faces arrest and can expect the Court to make a Football Banning Order.

People are getting jailed and banned
• In November 2013 a Manchester United fan that set off a smoke bomb during their clash with West Bromwich Albion - Sir Alex Ferguson's last game in charge – was given a two month jail term (suspended for 12 months) and banned from any football grounds for three years. 
• In February 2013 two Chelsea fans were jailed for 28 days and given six year football banning orders for taking smoke bombs into the Liberty Stadium for a match versus Swansea City. Their appeal for the sentence was thrown out. 
• In January 2013 an 18 year old Exeter City fan was jailed for two months and given a six year banning order for attempting to take a smoke bomb into Torquay United v Exeter City. 
• In August 2012 an Oxford United fan was jailed for two months and given a six year banning order for taking a smoke bomb into Home Park for a match versus Plymouth Argyle. 

Incidents nearly always involved the away supporters
Of the 172 reported pyrotechnic incidents in the 2012/13 season, 164 were committed by away supporters. 

They are used by younger fans
The average age of supporters arrested for pyrotechnic use is 20. 

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Examples of injuries caused by pyrotechnics at English football grounds
• West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United, 20 April 2013 – fans were treated for shrapnel wounds following the setting off of thunder flashes. Debris passed through jeans and caused cuts to legs. 
• Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa, May 2013 - a 15-year-old boy suffered lung damage from a smoke bomb thrown during the game. The boy needed hospital treatment, while two women aged 22 and 24, also required attention for the effects of the device. 
• Liverpool v Everton, May 2013 – an eight year Everton fan was hit by a smoke bomb thrown by fans in the away end. He was treated for a burn on his neck on his first visit to a Merseyside derby. 
• Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur on 20 October 2013 - an assistant referee was struck by a lit smoke canister thrown from the stand. 
• Leeds United v Shrewsbury Town, 11 August 2012 – two supporters were injured, one requiring hospital treatment, when an industrial firework was ignited and thrown in the away supporters’ toilet.  
• Coventry City v Walsall, 8 December 2012 - a flare was discharged by the Walsall supporters. A steward placed his foot on the device to prevent further smoke escaping, however the sole of his shoe melted causing injury. 
• Leicester City v Sheffield Wednesday, 9 March 2013 - a female supporter received treatment for burns to her leg from one of the smoke bombs thrown between supporters.  
• Bolton Wanderers v Huddersfield Town, 2 April 2013 - Bolton supporters ignited a flare and an 18 year old youth was treated for burns picking it up.

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