Police warn of increasing risk of flares in football

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Fri, 20/05/2022
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While a common feature among football supporters in the rest of Europe as well as elsewhere, the use of flares by fans at the grounds has been largely unknown in England until very recently.

However, following their increasing use, most prominently at the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday, there have now been warnings of the dangers such pyrotechnics pose. They may, after all, even result in fatalities.

One of the FA Cup semi-finals saw a nine-year-old boy receive medical attention for burns to his hand after picking up a discarded flare. Some flares burn at very intense temperatures, and there have been incidents in the past abroad when they have killed people. In addition, smoke canisters often result in breathing difficulties and can cause discomfort to other fans, and potential health problems.

While illegal to bring flares into football grounds, flares can easily be bought online and sneaked into stadiums by fans, because searches at gates rarely detect them.

A high-profile incident occurred on 1 May at Goodison Park, when Everton entertained Chelsea. When Everton scored through Richarlison, the latter picked up a lit flare that had been thrown back on the pitch, and appeared to throw it back in to the crowd. No action was taken against him, although he was later condemned for his actions which were potentially dangerous.

Clubs have been reminded of their responsibilities for the safety at spectators at games. However, in reality, it is very difficult to stamp the practice out. Stewards can be tasked with identifying offenders and ejecting them from grounds, but it can be difficult to spot the perpetrators among thousands of people.

Four arrests were made during the FA Cup semi-finals for the use of flares, but any hope of such sanctions persuading fans from the use appears to have been in vain so far.

Unfortunately, it may take a tragedy to make those who think such behaviour is “cool” to see sense. By then, though, it might be too late for someone and their family.