Despite being prohibited by both law and ground regulations, you’ll have noticed that the use of flares, smoke bombs and firecrackers is on the increase at matches. Many fans, young and old, like them and feel they contribute to the atmosphere, but just as many don’t appreciate the possible danger they pose.
The FSF’s Caseworker Amanda Jacks looks at the potential consequences of using pyrotechnics.
Back in February a young teenager died after being hit in the face by a firework in Bolivia which had been thrown by fans into the away support. People have since been arrested for his murder.
I don’t necessarily like telling people what to do or how to behave but if I’m asked whether or not it’s a good idea to use a smoke bomb, I’ll remind fans of the law and strongly advise against it. I’ll also advise supporters of the consequences of committing an illegal act. Dependent on the offence, the consequences can be anything range from an on the spot fine up to a prison sentence. If a case comes before court and you’re found guilty, inevitably a banning order will be applied for and granted (although having legal representation may help you avoid a banning order in some cases).
Convictions mean a criminal record and the consequences of that may affect many things from going on holiday to certain countries, rejected university or job applications, or even the loss of employment. If you are ever stopped by the police and your name comes up as having been arrested or convicted, it is likely they’ll take more interest in you. In short, a criminal conviction is something you could do without.
Several fans arrested for the possession or use of smoke bombs have approached the FSF for legal advice. I’ve had to speak to distraught mothers and girlfriends terrified their son/boyfriend will be sent to prison if found guilty. Given that custody is a possibility, suffice to say those conversations are difficult – how do you respond to the question: “is prison worth it for a few minutes of coloured smoke?”
Whether fans are imprisoned or not, one thing is certain: applications for banning orders will almost certainly be successful. Serving a banning order not only means that you can’t attend any football matches in the UK for three years (and sometimes more), it means the inconvenience of having to hand in your passport every time England or Wales (or your club) play outside of the UK. They may also mean you can’t enter a particular town centre or use public transport on a match day.
So, if you are thinking about it, or you hear your mates talking about taking a smoke bomb, flare or firework to a game, just remind them what the consequence of doing so may be. We can help with legal advice, but we can’t always pick up the pieces afterwards.
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 (document will open as a pdf in a new window - right click to open with Adobe Reader or other programs).
Thanks to Muhammad غفّاري for the image used in this article under CC license.