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Football authorities act to snuff out growing pyrotechnic trend

Football authorities act to snuff out growing pyrotechnic trend – where children are used as ‘mules’ to smuggle flares into grounds

By Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED: 18:10 EST, 2 December 2013 | UPDATED: 18:10 EST, 2 December 2013
Children as young as eight have been used to smuggle flares and smoke bombs into English stadiums.

Football authorities have launched an offensive in an effort to halt the rise in pyrotechnic devices being set off by fans inside football grounds.

The trend has taken hold in the last two years with young children used as ‘mules’ to smuggle dangerous devices through the turnstiles on behalf of adults.

Research proved many match-going fans are unaware of the extreme dangers, and the authorities have reacted by launching a campaign aimed at stamping it out.

Only eight pyrotechnic incidents were recorded across England’s top five divisions in 2010-11 but last season there were 172 and there were 96 in the first three months of this campaign.

These include the smoke canister hurled towards the pitch that struck an assistant referee on the head during Aston Villa’s game against Tottenham. Fans have received shrapnel wounds inside English grounds and others have suffered lung damage after smoke inhalation.

James Maddocks, an eight-year-old Everton fan and season-ticket holder, was treated for burns to his neck after he was hit by a smoke bomb thrown by Everton fans during the Merseyside derby at Anfield in May.

‘Pyrotechnics are not innocent fun,’ said Cathy Long, head of supporter services at the Premier League. ‘They can be dangerous and there are victims.’

The Premier League, the Football League and the FA launched the campaign to educate fans after finding that most of those asked in a survey who had experienced flares and smoke bombs at games wanted more to be done to tackle the problem.

Posters will appear inside grounds and in programmes to inform supporters that many of the popular flares burn at 1,600C, the melting point of steel, and that smoke bombs are designed for open spaces not the confines of a football stand.

Those caught can face jail and be banned from football. Last month, a Manchester United fan was hit with a three-year banning order and a suspended jail sentence for setting off a smoke bomb at The Hawthorns on the final day of last season.

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