JOSEPH Carter, the Head of Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, has called for the greater enforcement of the ban on pyrotechnics at sporting events following a spate of alarming incidents this season.
Kick-off in the Edinburgh derby match at Easter Road last Sunday was delayed because smoke bombs had been thrown onto the pitch by both Hibernian and Hearts supporters.
More smoke bombs were then set off by fans of the Tynecastle club after Josh Ginnelly had opened the scoring in the first-half of the Scottish Cup fourth round game.
Exposure to smoke can cause breathing difficulties in people who suffer from medical conditions like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and Carter is concerned about the worrying trend.
It has been illegal to take a pyrotechnic device into a stadium since the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act was passed at Westminster in 1985.
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Carter wants to see clubs and the football authorities do far more to prevent their use before “something serious” happens at a match in this country.
“Smoke from flares and smoke canisters can stay in the air for quite a long time, creating areas of air pollution that can trigger asthma attacks or symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness,” he said.
“With two in five people with asthma surveyed in Scotland saying that poor air quality, including smoke, can trigger their condition, we would like to see better enforcement of the ban of these items at sporting events.
“It is fortunate that no serious incidents have occurred for people with lung condition, such as asthma, so far. The increased use of flares and smoke canisters at games only increases the risk of something serious happening in the future.”
David Hamilton of the Scottish Police Federation this week called on Scotland's clubs to do more to stop supporters using pyrotechnics inside football stadiums and warned they may have their stadium safety certificates taken away from them if they are unable to create a safe environment for spectators.
"What we really need is for the football clubs themselves to be much, much stricter on the use of pyrotechnics within grounds and search regimes to be much, much tighter," he said. "Sometimes they have not been as tight as they should be.
“I would also really like to see a clear and unambiguous statement from football clubs that pyrotechnics are absolutely unacceptable within grounds and that people found with them will get bans, if not life bans, if they are caught with them.
“We now have the legislation in place, which is helpful, but we need to see a renewed and invigorated response from the clubs. They have to make it clear there is no place for pyrotechnics in football.
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“If the clubs are not going to take responsibility then maybe we need to start looking at their ground safety certificates and asking if they are actually fit and proper organisations to be holding events like that.
“These certificates are there to ensure audiences can watch games in a safe environment. If you have got a proportion of your fans setting off flares and making it unsafe and you are not pursuing them actively enough then I would say there is a real question mark over the ability of clubs to be protecting people.
“That is a last-ditch resort. But our position is that everything should be on the table. What we need to see is clubs dealing very firmly with those who use pyrotechnics. There is a role here for clubs to play.
“People sometimes feel a bit cowed because it is big clubs, big money and a lot of people are involved. But we need to get over that. People cannot be put at risk going to watch a game of football. They need to be able to do that safely.”