English Football’s Developing Affair with Pyrotechnics

In recent years there has been in a worrying, yet growing trend in English football, the use of pyrotechnics.

Year on year the amount of flares, fireworks and smokebombs in the Premier League through to the Conference is rising, including European competitions such as the Champions League.

The usage of such items has for a long time been seen on the continent and used by travelling European fans coming to watch matches on English soil, but with home fans now begin to adopt this culture the statistics are beginning to look bleak.

Data collected from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/25183301

One of the most worrying figures, is the rate in which the reported amount of incidents involving pyrotechnics is rising, with a 238.9% increase in the number of incidents between the 2011-12 season and last season the 2012-13 campaign.

The rise by 100 incidents is worrying but also is the statistics for this season.

With only three months having been completed thus far this season there have already been 90 reported incidents meaning this year, with the number already above half of last season’s yet only three months through we could see another steep rise in the number.

Already this season we have seen a high profile case of flares being used, as during the match between Aston Villa and Tottenham on the 20th October assistant referee David Byran was struck by a flare thrown towards the pitch by the travelling fans.

Action will need to be taken in order to stop this new culture, that seems to be sweeping English Football as the stats would suggest, and fortunately arrests are rising too.

In the 2011-12 season there were 32 arrests made by the Home Office Police Forces due to “Use or Possession for Flares or Fireworks” and the number rose to 76 for the following 2012-13 season.

Of the 76 arrests made the Premier League was responsible for the majority with 29 arrests for the competition, and the data shows that it is higher up the footballing pyramid that pyrotechnics are used, though some lower league clubs have also had problems.

Data taken from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/248740/Football_Arrest_BO_Statistics_2012-13.pdf "table 6"

Within the separate competition as mentioned previously the Premier League had the highest number of arrests, but the second tier, the Championship was also responsible for over 20 arrests with 21 arrests happening in the Championship throughout the 2012-13 season.

It is highlighted here that the impact of flare usage is mainly restricted to the top two divisions and other cup competitions as there is a jump between the second tier, the Championship, and the third tier, League One, of 21 arrests in the Championship to just one in League One when looking solely at the competitions.

Some of the most worrying statistics are the number of arrests per club.

Within the Premier League there were seven clubs who were responsible for three or more arrests with Liverpool the main perpetrators with six arrests whilst Manchester United, Everton and Newcastle United were responsible for five arrests each.

Hull who gained promotion to the Premier League last season were responsible for four arrests in the Championship whilst Blackpool, Bolton and Charlton also had three arrests each.

Even further down the Football League and in League One, , though there was only one arrest for the competition there were eight arrests when looking individually at the clubs as they also featured in the FA Cup, League Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Of the eight arrests in that division, Shrewsbury and Oldham Athletic also both had three arrests each meaning in total 13 clubs throughout the Premier League and Football League were responsible for three or more arrests for “Use or Possession of Fireworks or Flares” in the 2012-13 season.

This season the stats aren’t looking much better either with a report published on the BBC with their data coming from the UK Football Policing Unit showing 14 clubs so far this season have already been involved in three or more incidents with pyrotechnics.

This is not to say there have been 14 clubs involved in three or more arrests as seen in the 2012-13 statistics released for that entire season as those figures will not be released until the end of the season but the early signs are not looking good.

Another point is there are the same few clubs involved with Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool, Charlton, and Oldham all mentioned in the BBC article.

The main fear for pyrotechnics is that it could lead to another harrowing day for English football.

In years gone by their have been stadium tragedies such as the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 with resulted in 96 deaths and also the Valley Parade Fire in 1985 which claimed 56 lives.

The fear is a realistic one, and one that the extent of which has been seen on these shores before when in 1993 John Hill died at the end of a match between Wales and Romania when he was hit by a flare.

With the data showing the incidents are on the rise many including Damian Green, the Policing Minister, believe tragedy could strike again.

Video from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOqQ10n8NZg (Home Office Official Channel)

However, with the arrests on the rise too Damian Green and those who have suffered because of consequences of pyrotechnics in football, such as John Hill’s family will hope there won’t be a repeat, though the fears remain.

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