Big match first aid chiefs yesterday called for a total ban on the sale of pyrotechnics and warned lives are being risked inside stadiums.
Jim Dorman, operations and policy director of St Andrew’s First Aid, which provides emergency cover at stadiums, said there should be heavy penalties for culprits and a “complete prohibition” on the sale of fireworks.
His call follows a series of alarming incidents at games.
Last week, the St Mirren goalkeeper needed attention after a “flash-bang” pyrotechnic was thrown on to the pitch during his side’s match with Celtic.
It landed with a loud bang just yards away from Vaclav Hladky, who was left shaken.
Yesterday the Hearts-Hibs derby at Tynecastle was also affected after pyrotechnics including smoke bombs were thrown on to the pitch during the game, despite police issuing an appeal for fans to behave earlier in the week.
A coconut was also hurled on to the park during the match when three fans were arrested.
Hearts v Hibs 4 smokes bombs and a coconut bad behaviour from fans stop it! pic.twitter.com/oL1OousOfV
— Farhaan (@Farhaan_bwfc3) April 6, 2019
Last Sunday’s Old Firm derby saw trouble on and off the pitch and fireworks hurled from the crowd.
Three Celtic fans were stabbed in Glasgow as violence erupted following the match. Other incidents this season have also included coin-throwing, pitch invasions and a seat being thrown into a crowd of fans.
Mr Dorman questioned how pyrotechnic devices were being smuggled into games. He said: “Every year there are catastrophic injuries caused by fireworks.
“So it is an absolute nonsense when people are looking to set these fireworks off in a very crowded and enclosed area.
“How are people managing to get these devices into the ground?
“I want to see them banned, so you have complete prohibition, and for the culprits who are letting them off to be given a heavy sentence.
“It is a complete and utter disregard for their fellow spectators.”
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on whether fireworks should be more strictly regulated, which includes considering a ban on their sale to the public.
Mr Dorman warned letting off pyrotechnics at football matches risked causing injuries from serious burns to breathing difficulties from inhaling smoke – and even crush injuries if it triggered a panic in the crowd.
He said: “Our volunteers are present at the majority of football league matches in Scotland and it is becoming more common to see these flares and bangers being set off.
“If one of these flares was to go off in the middle of the crowd, the effect could be devastating. When there was the big bang at the Celtic-St Mirren game the other night, a lot of the players did get a fright, you could see some of them recoiling in horror.
“When someone drops a flare, you can see people rushing to get away from it, and that can cause other problems – crushes and panics.”
Following the incident on Wednesday night, Celtic’s “ultras group” the Green Brigade issued a statement which said: “As an ultras group, we support the safe, sensible use of pyrotechnics. However the launching of pyrotechnics on to the park or in the direction of people is both unnecessary and counterproductive to any aspirations of normalising its use.”
However, pyrotechnics are among a list of items prohibited from being brought into Scottish football grounds by law, which also includes knives and glass bottles.
It is also a criminal offence to throw, cast or fire any firework into any road or public place.
Police Scotland has expressed increasing concern at incidences of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs being set off at Scottish games.
In 2014, Emma Leslie, 17, was found guilty of possessing a controlled substance – a flare – in a sports ground and throwing it on to the pitch at Falkirk stadium.
She escaped a football ban, however, after a court heard it did not cause harm to anyone.
But there have been cases around the world of injury and even death caused by pyrotechnics at football matches.
Fourteen-year-old Kevin Espada was killed in 2013 when a flare was let off during a match between San José and Corinthians in Bolivia.
The Scottish Football Association said: “The health and safety of all those involved in football is of paramount importance to us.
“We condemn any use of pyrotechnic devices that endanger fans, staff and players at Scottish football matches and encourage anyone attending matches to use common sense and consider the safety of others.”
Justice minister Humza Yousaf has vowed to take action to improve fan behaviour, saying all options are being considered.
This includes introducing strict liability on clubs, which would hold them responsible for the behaviour of fans in and around grounds, with sanctions ranging from warnings and fines to ground closures.
Mr Yousaf said: “The vast majority of football supporters are well-behaved.
“However, problems undoubtedly remain and there have been a number of unsavoury incidents recently.
“The football authorities and clubs must use their influence to take serious measures to help tackle such misconduct.
“The Scottish Government will continue to consider what further action we can take.
“I will listen to ideas from across the parliamentary chamber, be it strict liability or exploring what can be done within licensing laws.
“All options remain firmly on the table.”
Online sale of powerful explosives for just 50p
Firecrackers, flares and smoke bombs used by football thugs can be bought online for as little as 50p plus postage.
Foreign websites are advertising a range of pyrotechnics for sale, including some banned under UK law.
One site boasts that its merchandise is aimed at football ultras and states that firecrackers are among its most popular products.
Firecrackers cannot be sold legally in the UK and are banned from Scottish football matches.
The site – based in Poland but which claims to be of British origin – is currently advertising a single firecracker for sale for the price of less than one euro. Customers can also buy smoke grenades which are available in a range of colours such as red, purple, green and blue for less than £5 each. It states: “Football smoke bombs are one of the most important products for every football fan.”
Many of the pyrotechnics are clearly marketed at football fans – despite them not being permitted at sports venues. The site based in Poland advertises a firecracker for sale with the name Match Thunder
It advises customers picking blue flares that “you can be sure that with this kind of colour everyone will know about your favourite team.”
With the charge for delivery to the UK being €25, this increases the chance of hooligans buying pyrotechnics in bulk. And, nearer home, a site with a contact address in England sells coloured smoke bombs for use in films, on stage and for outdoor combat sports.
Flares can also be bought in boat shops, where they are marketed as safety devices.
However, boat supply shops in Scotland have policies that are aimed at deterring the illegal use of flares.