Celtic And Scottish Football Will Pay A High Price For This Continuing Pyro-Mania.

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“It’s Not Going Away You Know” was the message this weekend from the pyromaniacs.

Their point was accentuated by the coloured smoke which billowed up and into the air.

I’ve seen a lot in my time, enough to know that when a group of people openly flaunt their contempt for the law of the land that something’s going to give. Either they will give in or the state will.

If they go eyeball to eyeball on this, I know who my money will be on to blink first. As I said in a previous article, this is not an argument that is winnable. It’s as clear a loser as any that I’ve ever seen.

I want you to imagine something with me for a moment.

Imagine those amazing pictures of a full pyro show amongst the fans juxtaposed with one of fans lying unconscious on the concrete.

Or some poor sod in an ICU.

Which is the more consequential “spectacle?”

The day after the notorious Game of Shame, where the chaos was largely confined to what happened on the pitch, the Scottish Government convened a summit. The result of that summit was the Offensive Behaviour At Football Act.

An anti-fan piece of illiberal legislation, rushed through parliament to deal with stuff that had nothing to do with the fans.

So imagine the morning those newspapers pictures are published, those two separate images and one almighty story, the story of how creating “a special atmosphere” at football was allowed to take precedence over the safety of fans.

I assure you of this, and those involved know it too; in that scenario, pyro will be out of stadiums right quick, never to be seen again. Because public opinion will turn so violently than any politician who isn’t rushing to demand harsh measures will feel whiplashed.

This is one of the two possible paths in our future.

The other is that those regulations will come in first, before disaster strikes. I’d rather that. Prevention is what it’s all about, and not just because it will save someone from being seriously hurt or killed.

The reaction to a tragedy will be several magnitudes more serious than anything that a legislature will pass in the meantime.

We can only imagine what really draconian football fan laws look like right now … we would get a first-hand education in them should such a dark day ever come to pass, and there will be barely a murmur of dissent.

Last week, Graham Spiers did a podcast episode on pyro and before it he asked me if I was interested in going on, because I’d written about it some weeks ago.

I wasn’t able to do it because I had some prior commitments.

The panel ended up made up of Dr Tom Smith, who commissioned UEFA’s report on the issue, David Hamilton the ex-chair of the Police Federation and Matthew Lindsay, the journalist, who has written a series of very balanced, very fair-minded articles on this subject which I recommend that every supporter reads.

The voices of the fans were absent from that podcast, so he decided to do a follow up and once again asked me to take part, and I was pleased to do so. The debate was excellent, and not in the least shouty or angry, but passionate and forthright.

And yet, I still feel like a lot of it was parallel universe stuff.

There are two sets of arguments in favour of pyro.

The first are all about the visual experience and what it adds to the atmosphere.

The second set of arguments are along the lines of how it’s here to stay and it’s better to work with fans to find a safe way of doing it, because otherwise … what? It will continue to happen anyway?

Let’s start with the first argument.

The central point of it is solid.

They create colour and atmosphere and look incredible. But as nice as that is, since when does it take precedence over the safety of supporters? Since when do we sacrifice the wellbeing of fans for what looks good? It’s when you consider the consequences that you have to stop yourself and say “Hey wait … what if?”

Yeah. “What if?”

That question should haunt every person engaged in this or speaking up for it. When a family is getting interviewed on the BBC and asks why the fans who do this didn’t consider the safety of other people (or even themselves) what’s the answer to that going to be?

“Yeah but did you see it that night? Didn’t it look amazing?”

I don’t think that’s a good enough answer. How can it be? I cannot believe that such an argument can be the default position for so many people.

The second argument is no better.

It suggests that mass law-breaking should be accommodated and that the answer to it is to “work with people.” As I said on the podcast, this is the debate point we call “the drunk driver only lane on the motorway.”

People want to do it. You will not stop everyone from doing it.

So shouldn’t we seek to find a way that lets those who don’t like the law do what they want without it impacting on others?

When you frame it like that it sounds utterly ridiculous … because it is ridiculous.

The nanny-state argument doesn’t stand up either.

When you buy a set of speakers you get a gel-pack with them.

I have no idea what that is for, or why it is in there, but it carries a warning on it that you should not try to eat it.

Perhaps someone, somewhere, has done it. Perhaps people want to. But that warning is there. There is no law against eating the gel-pack and no-one would ever propose one.

That warning basically says “we’re not advising it. Do it at your own risk.”

But there’s a reason we do not allow the drunk drivers to have their own lane on the motorway.

It’s about protecting other people on the road.

No-one would ever argue that we should allow drunk driving, just as no-one any longer questions seat-belt laws or speed limits. Your right to do what you want and live as you like is not restricted when it comes to eating the left-overs in your speaker box.

It is only really restricted when your behaviour might endanger someone else.

But for the moment, they are right. It will continue to happen.

Yet only as long as the state is minded to tolerate it in some form. That’s not an indefinite state of affairs.

The idea that a group of fans openly breaking the law will somehow force the Scottish Government, the UK legislature and the police into concessions would be funny if it wasn’t also dangerous to the standing of the game.

Those responsible for crafting and enforcing the law know that the spread of this problem will inevitably lead to a tragedy, and that will shift the dial in more ways than one.

The only real question is whether they act before that happens or whether they act after it does.

But mark my words, there will be a reckoning.

The politicians have already started to act, with new legislation on pyro.

It’s the tip of the iceberg. Strict liability will follow unless football gets its own house in order … and I see no sign that it will.

But if a tragedy does come first, the politicians and the media won’t be able to move fast enough to propose action.

The police force will have been vindicated in their dire warnings and they will get every tool that they require to enforce ever harsher laws. That won’t be the nanny state either, it will be a necessary step in dealing with an ever-more serious issue.

There are people in our support who are now openly confrontational when it comes to the police.

I understand the genesis of those standoffs, and it wasn’t pyro.

But in this case the police are only acting as the instrument which upholds the law. Increased police presence is not a separate issue from mass-lawbreaking. It is the consequence of it.

The longer this stand-off continues the heavier the hand will come down.

If the tragedy happens, that hand will hit like it never has before.

It will be a Year Zero event, one of those moments where there is a Life Before This and a Life After It.

We will all be able to tell the difference.

You can listen to Graham’s excellent podcasts on this subject below.

Pyro in Scottish football – is tragedy awaiting? | Press Box hosted by Graham Spiers on Patreon

Pyro part 2 – The fans’ view | Press Box hosted by Graham Spiers on Patreon

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  • Bob L says:

    100% James, can’t be tolerated any longer, dangerous doesn’t even begin to describe it

  • Benjamin says:

    I was not surprised to see a significant increase in police presence at the last home match after what happened at Hampden. This weekend will almost certainly see the same, if not larger, police presence. Those who are calling it out and complaining about it are largely the same people flouting the law and want the freedom to do so with impunity. As it stands, the police are there in large numbers because the club itself wants the police to deal with this issue once and for all, even if it means arresting dozens or hundreds of its own fans – fans who are among the most loyal paying customers the club has.

    Last point: if the pyro makes another appearance at Celtic Park, it’s going to result in stand closures, and very possibly for more than one game. Any individuals identified and arrested are going to have their ticket cancelled and be given a stadium ban. The club isn’t messing about and neither are the police. Those involved in the pyrotechnics need to look in the mirror and ask themselves if what they’re doing is in the best interests of the club, then why is the club fighting them so hard on this issue?

  • John S says:

    Some Celtic fans with breathing problems are already suffering for this pyrotechnic preening. There’s a very good reason why inflammables are not allowed in stadia.

  • LadyGreybush says:

    Easy fix. Tell the GB that if someone in their area brings pyro, to point them out immediately, or the entire section is banned for the next home match. Same with away fans. If it happens again, the remaining matches will be added to the ban. Fuck off, little kids, nobody wants that at the game.

  • Michael Knox says:

    All very well explained just a pity is that it’ll only stop when someone is injured, but some will blame it on establishment for trying to prevent it.
    Prat it doesn’t come to that mick

  • Martin says:

    Better searches into the stadium. Then exclusión of those with pyro. Maybe they’ll go away and join the onion bears in an outside protest. 2 cheeks of the same arse anyway the shower of them.

    Leave the stadium for the rest of us who don’t want it.

  • SSMPM says:

    A third answer might be to explore if you can simulate the spectacle in a way that’s not pyro nor dangerous. I’ve often seen for example fog and mist machines used in theatres, at gigs, etc, but if I’m honest I don’t even know if it’s even possible to replicate, particularly with colour or can be utilised in large outdoor stadia or is harmful in some way to the public. If it can however it should, as with the ‘disco lights’, be down to and solely up to the club to install if they even want to.
    Btw it looks like Colin Hendry must have used those heated balls but I’m glad we’ve got the huns in the SC semi. Hail Hail

  • Eire goCeltic says:

    Trained sniffer dogs have been recently used by Police in EPL games (last 6 years or so) to detect Pyrotechnics. I cannot find a paper that reports the effectiveness of the dogs in detection and future
    deterrence for this illegal use. Targeted blitz by Police with dogs might have a positive benefit.
    Appreciate knowing that Fans, Clubs, Police and Journalists are talking together.
    I did think of manually turning on the under roof sprinklers in select areas to drench Fans bur this might create other hazards (health) and riots. You would warn them first.

  • Peter Cassidy says:

    It’s not good for your health breathing in those toxic fumes also as fire risk stadium full of plastic seats all sorts of materials” that can burn do we wait for something to happen. I can see the health and safety board closing the stadium completely and with drawing it’s safety certificate”GB take note let everyone enjoy Celtic.

  • Roonsa says:

    Let’s get all the decent Celtic and Rangers fans together and tell these so called Ultras that they are not welcome at Celtic Park or Ibrox. Let’s join hands with our brothers South of the Clyde …..

    ……aaaaaaaaah …….

    Ah’m only banter. Fuck the huns, Union Fuds n all.

    As for the GB. The arrogance is beyond a joke now.

  • Eldraco says:

    Stop, search confiscation at the ferrys.

    We all know it.

  • Stesano says:

    It’s a disgrace ! Appart from the mentioned dangers it affects people lungs and many fans will have asthma and maybe some will have CPO! It’s just the same as that other disgraceful situation in UK between October to November 5 then it continues on!! That should be banned also!! ” A country of animals lovers” I when it suits! I hate this breed of fans attitude met few , utter wee clown shoes most them , selfish little bassa to boot!

  • Martin.H says:

    In our club the green brigade are the problem, get them in and get it sorted, if it continues at home and away games, take their season tickets away for good and black list them.

  • Elaine says:

    I hate pyros. I don’t see what it adds to an atmosphere other than to choke your fellow fans in smoke and obstruct the view for 10 minutes into a match. The guys who let them off probably aren’t old enough to remember the football stadium horrors that happened I’m the 80s with fans being killed or they just don’t care.
    The other issue I have is the smoke does anyone know what is billowing out in that plume of green probably not. My brother an ambulance picked up celtic fan who respitory problems after civid and was a long time Celtic fan told him how he had gotten back to the games only to suffer severe respitory reaction to them being let off. After decades in the same seat over near the GB he had to phone up the club who were very understanding and swapped his seat away from the GB.

  • Martin says:

    To be honest even just an official statement from Celtic, or a joint statement with police Scotland/GCC would be a start. Something along the lines of “pyrotechnics are prohibited within Celtic park. Anyone caught trying to enter with pyrotechnics or using them within the stadium will be evicted and banned for life” would show a desire to stop this. Especially if they actually did that. I know it’s a pretty brutal statement but honestly…fuck trying to appease these morons with understanding language. Get them telt then get them dealt with. If they want to boycott games so much the better, we might get other fans having an option on away games and we’d lose the toxic environment of pyro and unwelcome songs.

  • Magua says:

    I don’t smoke these days, but back in the day, a few of us enjoyed a calming cigar or cigarette, in our row in block 406. Anyone trying to light up these days will find themselves hauled away by the polis. And yet…the preening, entitled, selfish little swines in the various casual groups, think that they can break the law at will. Supporters attend games to watch the fitba …not to have their view of the game obstructed by wee hoods letting off smoke bombs and flares. At home games, everyone entering the so-called safe standing section should be searched. Anyone found in possession of pyro should be handed over to the polis, for further action.

    Hail Hail

  • T McNeill says:

    The main thing is as celtic fans and all of us for our team, Is the fact of our stadium roar, from us celtic fans ain’t enough, for us but to flaunt on safety, that am sure they all adhere too on a daily working week,. Safety comes first green brigade.

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