On July 3rd, UEFA published an independent scientific report that allegedly "proves no safe use of pyrotechnics in stadiums". The report is authored by Dr. Tom Smith and counts 72 pages, available here.
To sum things up for you, we've read through some extensive descriptions on what happens with skin, clothes, seats etc when exposed to pyrotechnics. As many of you may already know, pyrotechnics do get hot, and when a hot unit is put in contact with an object that is is some way ignitable, the heat will be transferred and a process will begin. Being water that vapourizes from your skin before the fat starts to boil, melting of synthetic clothing, and the panic that may rise from this.
We're then taken through some hypothetical scenarios where pyrotechnics has been modified to create pipe bombs, or used on a way they are not designed for, with the potential for "multiple deaths as a result". Emphasized in the report by Dr. Smith.
After a walk-through of different products we've seen on stadiums before, we're served a table showing how toxic known combustion products (what comes out from various kinds of pyrotechnics) can be. Unfortunatly, the table is unable to inform us on what actually comes from – let's say – a flare or a given smoke bomb, and it is also based on an 8 hour exposure. So unless you're into pyro and cricket, you've probably gone home way before then.
The round-up hands us some nasty footage from Liveleak, along with the humble note that we cannot be entirely sure that these injuries actually comes from firework. Oh well, at least we've got an image of what could possibly happen.
Dr. Tom Smith's conclusion is "The report concludes that there are significant health and safety risks arising from their use in close proximity to other people and in contravention of the safety distances which are specified on the pyrotechnic articles themselves. All pyrotechnic devices have a “safety” distance for good reason and which will to exceed the available space within a crowded stand or stadium. It concludes that is not safe, therefore, for any pyrotechnic device to be used in spectator areas within football stadia. "
There is just no way any normal, enlightened person would sign a document saying that pyrotechnics are "safe". Dr. Tom Smith is not wrong when he lists the hazards they present. What provokes us about this, is that this takes us nowhere closer to a safer match experience.
UEFA asked for an euphonious "independent scientific report" where the answer would most certainly be "No, it is not safe". Michael van Praag, chairman of the UEFA Working Group on Pyrotechnics, states that this "proves once and for all that there is no place for pyrotechnics in stadiums". Well, let us break that down for you.
Pyrotechnics are used on football games and has been for ages. In every country, in every league - and nothing FIFA, UEFA or any national association has ever done seems to keep it from reaching the stands. So this must be UEFAs starting point: "How can we make the stands safer even if pyrotechnics are present".
If your goal is to make football games safer, here are some numbers for you. In 2015, Norwegian supporter clubs had 80 legal pyro shows. This many people were injured during these shows:
This is what happens when fans are made responsible and given influence to self-regulate their security. It's our skin and clothes that will burn if we don't. Not van Praags blazer.
This is NOT what happens if the fans are made criminals from the moment they ignite a flare. They are then hunted by stewards, police, security with remote cameras. This is a recipe for unsafe use of pyro. And there is a good chance that the pyro will leave the hand of this person and head in some direction.
Justice and safety in the stands is best served internally, from supporter to supporter. Not by police, not by the FA, not by UEFA. There is more to this. We believe that when we satisfy and cooperate with the majority of the fans we make it harder for the extreme individuals to influence the rest in behavior that may be harmful. Such behavior often occurs when there is a black-and-white conflict with the club or the FA, where there is little or no understanding for a set of rules or a decision. For instance, if the punishment for the use of a flare where to be 1 year in prison - as it sometimes has been. A vast group of fans would then fall into the same category as the more extreme ones, and may act like so as a consequence. So we need to find a way for the fans to feel seen, understood and trusted with responsibility. As they should be.
Pyro can be dangerous. So can a car. Alcohol. Heights. The list goes on. We surround ourselves with a certain risk every day we get out of bed. So we must learn to deal with these risks in a proper way, when we know they will be a part of our life. To minimize risk, and maximize life.
If safety is important, we must approach pyro in a way that minimizes risk. A ban does not work. This "independent scientific report" does nothing for our safety. It only serves as a tool for those who doesn't dare a more reasonable approach to pyro.
We want the flare to stay in the hand of the supporter that chooses to light it, we want the colored smoke to raise above the fan sector where everyone knows there might be smoke, and we want everybody to go home safe without burns, or handcuffs.
UEFA/FIFA; A great number of people has died building arenas for your big tournaments. We suggest you start with that if you're concerned of people's well being. Apply cold water to that burn, why don't you.