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Pyro = banning orders, criminal record and clampdowns on fans. Is it worth it?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

It can’t have escaped your notice that pyro – smoke bombs and flares – have been in the news since a linesman was hit by a smoke bomb at Villa Park. Football Supporters’ Federation Caseworker Amanda Jacks looks at the consequences of using pyro…

The FSF shares the concern of the authorities and the police at the increased use of pyro – not because we’re all boring gits who don’t want fans to enjoy themselves but because the use of pyro isn’t backed by the majority of fans and can, for some, wreck their day.

In May a 15-year-old Villa fan suffered lung damage after being in close proximity to a smoke bomb and we’re aware of other cases where medical assistance has been sought.

Thankfully the linesman escaped serious injury (as did fans) after a flare was thrown at Old Trafford. However, it’s not scaremongering to say that they were fortunate and severe injuries are a very real possibility. It’s also worth mentioning that missile throwing is an offence in its own right and the definition of missile is very wide but will include pyro.

But it’s not just arguments around safety that concern us. Whether you agree with that or not, what isn’t up for debate is the legality of using pyro in grounds. Andy Holt, the Association of Chief Police Officers Lead on Football, has recently emphasised the seriousness of the offence.

Legal consequences

We’ve covered the consequences before but it goes a little something like this – Football Banning Order, criminal record, possible prison sentence, and the FSF picking up the pieces explaining to your relatives why the law has stamped down on you. Yeah, you might be a nice lad trying to “bring back the atmosphere” but the law doesn’t care and you’re banned from football.

Also, think about the consequences for your fellow fan. We already receive plenty of feedback from fans who think they’re all treated like criminals. If your club has a reputation for using pyro, rest assured you’ll see more police and stewards at games which can only reinforce that impression.

There’ll be sniffer dogs, more thorough searches, more filming, and stricter security operations because it’s very easy to justify that when people repeatedly break the law. All of this costs money and who, ultimately, pays for policing costs in grounds? Supporters. You might even see away allocations cut.

So, still want to use pyro? Think about your fellow fans and the impact on them. Think about how your own future will be affected. Think about the impact on your family. Pyro doesn’t mean party but it could mean a banning order, criminal record and even prison.

  • For more on the legalities of smoke bombs and fireworks, check out this factsheet produced by Alison Gurden, a Barrister specialising in Football Related Legislation

Thanks to Muhammad غفّاري for the image used in this article under CC license.

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