The BBC has reported that children as young as eight are being used as “mules” to smuggle pyrotechnics into Premier League matches. A survey has also found that a third of supporters have been directly affected by pyrotechnics and that 86% are concerned for their safety.
Flares and other pyrotechnics are commonly used in football matches across Europe, and while their existence in Britain has been acknowledged for a long time, they are spreading like wildfire. 96 pyrotechnic incidents have occurred in the first three months of this football season, which is pretty high compared to the 172 incidents that occurred across the whole of 2012-13.
|No pyro no party? No thanks!|
The first question we have to ask, is why flares are being used more and more in England? With shouts from some fans suggesting that it is because of enforcements such as stronger stewarding and restrictions towards standing at games, a reduced atmosphere at football matches has led to people trying to add a bit of “the old days” spirit back into football.
While this may be true, people have to accept that times change. Football isn’t like it was 20 years ago – of course it isn’t. The growth of consumerism and business investment has meant that football is now an industry used by other business’s to score corporate and sponsorship deals. Not only this, but with the reduction of sexism in society, football is now a game accessible by families. Women attend football matches, with their husbands, and with their children – and anything that is used by families ought to be a safe environment.
Regarding the law, possession of pyrotechnics in football grounds is a crime. It is punishable by bans or even prison.
The arguments for bringing pyrotechnics into football grounds are generally that “they don’t cause harm” and that “the atmosphere is rubbish so we need to bring these in." Unfortunately these arguments are both insufficiently strong to overturn the law. The fact is they CAN cause harm – they can hurt people, and just because we haven’t yet seen someone killed by them doesn’t mean that we won’t.
The response is that anything can be said to be dangerous, for example, cars kill people, but we don’t ban cars. However this is slightly different, road accidents are a symptom of dangerous driving, not necessarily an inherent product of cars. A car doesn't kill someone, it is usually the person behind the wheel. That is why we have methods to regulate road users, for example a driving test, speed cameras, and higher insurance for the most dangerous road users. The law can take a driving licence off someone for dangerous driving, and new drivers can have black boxes fitted to monitor the safety of their driving.
With pyrotechnics in football stadiums though, the harm is not a symptom of reckless use of pyrotechnics, it is simply a symptom of pyrotechnics. You can’t use a pyrotechnic in a football ground safely as opposed to unsafely, as you can with a car. Given the dense concentration of people in a football ground, it will always be unsafe.
Regarding the second argument about atmosphere, unfortunately that is perhaps a personal problem. While the football industry may have developed into a business, the essence of football remains the same. You go to a ground, you can have a drink, and you watch a game of football. You can chant songs, you cheer for goals, and you mock the opposition. There is still an atmosphere.
Higher safety precautions are not a valid reason to “not enjoy football any more” – if you can only enjoy something when there is potential for harm, damage, or even death – because that is the severity of what we’re talking about here – then perhaps you should readdress that issue. Football is a game for the masses, and call it tyranny of the majority if you wish, but the majority does not want to be harmed.
Safety precautions are not a product of “modern football” either, they are a product of modern society and they have been, or are being implicated in all areas of modern life. The workplace has seen it, schools have seen it, and football is seeing it. The state is not trying to “ruin football”, they are ensuring that attendants of a football match are kept safe, which deservedly is far higher on their priority list than increasing the atmosphere of football games through potential danger.