Police Scotland has been warning against the use of flares and smoke bombs at matches
“Safe flares” could be allowed in Scottish football grounds, says one of the country’s leading police officers.
Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins told BBC Scotland on Thursday it is “only a matter of time” before someone is killed by a pyrotechnic.
However, after a fans’ goup pointed out that Danish club Brondby have been running a trial on the use of controlled flares, Higgins told BBC Scotland he would “be OK with that”.
“I’d be open to discussions,” he added.
“Sporadic flares – which are not controlled – are where the risk is. But it boils down to the safety advisory board being satisfied.”
Paul Goodwin, of the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association, cited Israel and Norway as countries where flares are permitted at football, but insists only safe devices should be allowed inside grounds.
“They’re looking at it in Denmark but the first stage in that is to make sure the pyrotechnic itself is actually safe. Brondby are looking at safe pyrotechnics,” he explained.
“Once you’ve got to that area where it’s safe, then potentially you could maybe in 10 years’ time or five years, or however long, it takes see the club actually selling the pyrotechnics outside the ground. Who knows?
“We’re concerned about our members. We don’t want anybody being injured from anything that’s taken into the ground. That’s got to be the starting point in this discussion. Until the actual pyrotechnics are deemed to be safe, we would say, ‘don’t take pyrotechnics into the ground’.”
Higgins said there were 42 incidents involving pyrotechnics at Scottish Professional Football League games last season – from a total of around 5,000,000 people going through the turnstiles.
Sniffer dogs were used at the last meeting of Celtic and Rangers in April and Police Scotland have said they will “consider any tactic” to make grounds safer.
“I think there are elements [among supporters] who don’t know how dangerous they are,” Higgins added. “I’d rather not arrest them out of this problem; I’d rather ask, ‘do you realise the danger?’
“My real concern is that people are getting really confused with atmosphere and not thinking about safety. If you’re going with your child, do you not want to feel safe?
“It’s not about trying to dilute the experience. Generally speaking, football is as safe as ever, but we really want to address this emerging threat.”
Credit: Heather Dewar