Officers ‘concerned’ about flares being used at football matches

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Police will hold an amnesty on flares at a Yorkshire football ground this weekend as officers admit they are “increasingly concerned” about their use at matches.

Setting off fireworks or smoke flares at football stadiums is prevalent abroad but police say they are increasingly being taken into grounds in this country and they are keen to stamp down on the problem.

At Saturday’s pre-season friendly between York City and Sheffield Wednesday an amnesty will be held at City’s Bootham Crescent ground to encourage people to hand in flares and educate people about the dangers.

The move follows a number of incidents across the country where people have been hit by flares at matches.

Sgt Colin Sutherland, of York Safer Neighbourhood Team, said officers had noticed discussions on social media about the difference between a smoke grenade and a flare or firework.

He said: “The general view of supporters appears to be that smoke grenades are a ‘bit of fun’ whereas there is a general acceptance that the use of flares in a stadium environment is dangerous. However, smoke grenades can also be dangerous and to set them off in a public place is illegal.

“In reality, they pose a danger to everyone in the stadium and it is a criminal offence to enter or attempt to enter a stadium while in possession of fireworks, smoke grenades or other pyrotechnics and to set them off in a public place.”

He added: “We’ve been increasingly concerned about the growing use of ‘pyros’ at football games across the country and, although we’ve only had a few incidents at Bootham Crescent, we want to prevent more from happening and this campaign is more about education for supporters who may be unaware of the legislation.”

“We need people to understand the potential dangers and also realise that possession and use of ‘pyros’ in a public place is a serious criminal offence that could result in a football banning order or a prison sentence.”

Last year a 15-year-old boy suffered lung damage and two other women also needed treatment after a smoke bomb was thrown during Aston Villa’s game with Wigan. The boy needed hospital treatment.

While a 14-year-old boy was killed by a flare thrown by supporters during a match in Oruro, in Bolivia, last year.

Policing minister Damian Green has warned that fans who smuggle flares and smoke bombs into games were putting the lives of other supporters at risk.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said it was obviously keen to ensure people were safe when they attended football matches.

He said its policing unit had looked at the issue of flares and it was very keen to ensure that the problem was dealt with.

Saturday’s amnesty at Bootham Crescent is being held with the support of York City Football Club to raise awareness of the dangers and the law around flares and smoke grenades which many people believe are harmless.

A red bin will be placed outside the ground where fans can drop off any flares or smoke grenades ahead of Saturday’s game against Sheffield Wednesday.

Officers say those found guilty of breaking the law could face fines of up to £5,000 or three months in prison.