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Villa consulting with Police about Man Utd pyrotechnics amnesty

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Villa consulting with Police about Man Utd pyrotechnics amnesty

By Brian Doogan

Villa are consulting with West Midlands Police over a pyrotechnics amnesty ahead of the Club's next home game against Manchester United.

The Club will encourage any supporters in possession of flares, smoke bombs and other pyrotechnic devices to hand these over anonymously and safely in order to protect themselves and fellow fans from the extreme dangers that pyros present.

John Handley, Villa's Head of Security, said: "We have been in discussions with West Midlands Police and are working towards an amnesty ahead of our next home game.

"On the broader front, we're trying to emphasise the dangers and anti-social nature associated with these devices.

"Pyrotechnics do not enhance the experience or excitement of a football game - they do precisely the opposite and, in fact, can do real harm."

Research conducted by the Premier League, Football League and The FA established that one third of fans attending Premier League games have been affected by pyrotechnics while 78% of fans are demanding more action against pyro users.

The use of pyrotechnics is a relatively new phenomenon in English football, as opposed to continental Europe where the issue has been much more prevalent for many years. But it is a rising issue for the game in this country.

During the 2010-11 season there were just eight incidents across the Premier League, Football League and Football Conference as well as domestic cup competitions. In 2011-12 instances increased to 72 and last season there was a exponential rise to 172 reported cases. To the end of October 2013 alone there have been 96 separate incidents.

Cathy Long, Head of Supporter Services at the Premier League, said: "We have launched an education campaign because we want fans to be fully aware of the dangers of pyrotechnics and to realise the harm they can cause to other supporters.

"Pyrotechnics are not innocent fun, they can be very dangerous and there are victims.

"Fans, club staff and match officials have already been injured, some of them severely, and supporters who bring them are doing so illegally and can face jail and long bans. We don't want that, we just want everyone to be safe and able to still come to the game."

It is illegal to enter a football ground with a pyro and supporters risk jail and banning orders for being in possession of one.

Flares are used for marine distress and are designed not to be extinguished easily or quickly. They contain chemicals and burn at temperatures of 1600°C, the melting point of steel. Smoke bombs are mainly used recreationally in paintballing and war games, but these also burn at high temperatures and are designed to be used in wide open spaces. They are dangerous for those with asthma or breathing difficulties and can cause panic in a tightly-packed crowd. They are not designed for use in confined spaces and it is illegal to to be in possession of a smoke bomb and to enter a football stadium.

Policing Minister Damian Green said: "Football fans might see images of football grounds in other parts of Europe full of smoke and light caused by pyrotechnic devices and think that they create a good atmosphere — but they do not.

"Flares are very dangerous and can cause severe injuries. We are very lucky that no one has been seriously injured or killed by a flare here for a long time.

"This campaign clearly sets out the dangers of flares and smoke bombs. I want to see the courts taking this problem seriously and dealing in the strongest way possible with fans who still illegally smuggle pyrotechnics into football grounds."

Alan Weir, Head of Medical Services at St John Ambulance said: "We know that St John Ambulance volunteers have treated people for burns and smoke inhalation caused by flares at several football grounds.

"These cases could have led to disfigurement or other serious injuries, so we're advising fans to seek prompt emergency help should they come into contact with a flare to help prevent their injuries from getting worse.

"Our volunteers are trained and equipped with life-saving skills to help those who need it. We urge fans to stop using flares and think about the safety of those around them."

Amanda Jacks, Caseworker at The Football Supporters' Federation said: "Whether it's down to concerns around injury, or issues with smoke blocking their view, the survey results indicate that a clear majority of fans oppose the use of pyro inside stadiums. This tallies with anecdotal feedback from members.

"Despite this, the use of pyrotechnics does seem to have been on the rise lately, particularly among those fans who see it as a way to improve the atmosphere. However, we would strongly advise against supporters taking flares or smoke bombs into stadiums.

"Putting aside arguments over rights and wrongs the simple fact is it's against the law and could be an inadvertent danger to other fans.

"Use pyro in stadiums and there's a good chance you'll be caught, get a criminal record, and long-term football banning order. You might even go to jail.

"Over the past few years we've spoken to lots of fans who've used pyro in grounds without realising the severity with which the law will come down on them. Is it really worth it?"

The Club would remind fans that anyone found in possession of pyro devices on entering Villa Park will be arrested, causing injury to fellow fans by using these devices could result in a custodial sentence and life bans are almost certain to ensue.

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AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 3rd December 2013
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