To football fans flares symbolise different things, to some they symbolise a terrific atmosphere and others danger.
With the usage of pyrotechnics, especially flares on the rise in English football it is important to understand these different viewpoints with football fandom.
Fans, not only have different opinions and views on which teams they support, but also the other incidents that involve the game and at the moment with this issue creeping into fan culture in this country, perhaps from overseas influences, it is no different.
They may support the same team but could disagree on their views about the use of pyrotechnics but it is important to understand the wide variety of viewpoints.
The audio above is a vox-pop with a group of sports journalism students talking on their views on pyrotechnic usage in English football.
There are two main viewpoints on the usage of flares and pyrotechnics, one is that they are dangerous plain and simple and should be banned outright. The other view is that they add much needed atmosphere to matches and used abroad so why not in this country.
The clear opposition comes from those who believe they are dangerous, and the dangers have been seen on these shores in the past when John Hill died in an incident back in 1993.
Looking on online football forums you can see the responses given by fans.
Danger is one of the main areas covered, with some football goers claiming they just believe flares are too dangerous, and should not be considered by fans when going to watch matches.
Stadium tragedies like the Valley Parade fire in 1986 are discussed and it is also mentioned how difficult it is to extinguish flares, highlighting their danger to innocent fans in the stands, implying that perhaps those who use flares not only do not take into consideration safety risks but also the wishes of other fans.
Some fans though, as showcased in the forum thread and the vox-pop, understand the health implications and the risk to safety, whether that be through talking about personal experience struggling to see through the smoke of a smokebomb or whether it be considering the wider health risk implications pyrotechnics bring to football grounds.
Atmosphere is the main argument for fans who are pro the use of flares believing it adds to the occasion of a match.
Having seen travelling fans use flares when visiting Britain for European matches supporters in this country seem to have decided to adopt this foreign footballing culture trying to add to the atmosphere by making their home stadium or certain sections of their fanbase intimidating.
The image given off by European fans, whether it be when travelling to play matches in Britain or through pictures and videos seen on the internet, is the inspiration for British fans as they can see the atmosphere created by their foreign counterparts wanting to replicate this in English football stadia instead of just singing and chanting.
The foreign fans it seems fans from these shores are trying to replicate are “Ultras” who like hooligans seen in the British game can be involved in violence though it isn’t their main aim, instead supporting their team in large numbers is the main aim.
This is another issue that splits football fans, mainly between generations with the young fans seen as those just wanting to copy the style of Ultras instead of sticking to a more traditional English fan culture.
Flares are associated with foreign supporters and the Ultra movement in particular and to certain British fans, it isn’t part of our fan culture and therefore gives them further reason to disagree on the use of flares in English football.
It is this fan culture that splits fans over this issue as well as the health and safety implications.
There are certain fans who have grown up with the British fan culture from the 1970s and ‘80s when hooliganism was rife, but with the decline of hooliganism fans have now looked for a new identity and culture, using the foreign Ultra culture as the one that seems to be becoming more prominent in our game currently.
Forums are not the only way fans express their opinions, with social media playing a major part in football supporting in recent years.
Each club has their own dedicated twitter account and many use hashtags to distinguish themselves from other clubs.
Fans do not just simply use twitter to mention the teams they support but also their views, on matters such as pyrotechnic use in football.
An example is the usage of the phrase “No Pyro No Party” which is used not only by fans who support the use of flares and smokebombs etc but also by those who oppose it and mention it in a sarcastic tone much like the way they also describe some fans as Ultras for copying that model.
What is for certain is there is no united opinion on pyrotechnics between fans.
A tragedy like the death of John Hill, the Valley Parade Fire in 1985 or an event like the death of a child in a match in Bolivia may make some fans understand the dangers of pyrotechnics, but others may always support their usage due to the atmosphere they create at matches, even though that has been questioned too.