The Pyro Crackdown Has Arrived, And Celtic Fans Need To Be Aware Of It.

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On Sunday, when I saw the smoke billowing around Hampden, creating conditions which were clearly dangerous for a large number of fans and others in the National Stadium, I was struck once again by the idea that this situation is untenable.

That’s the appropriate word here, I think; untenable.

The proponents of this stuff don’t believe that. They won’t. They remind me of the Brexiteers at times, in their unwillingness to think about this logically. Their argument is entirely based on emotion, not reason.

Right from the start of this some of us have warned that openly violating the law will not cause the authorities to fold the hand, as some people evidently expect.

“Work with the fans” is their mantra but “change the law or ignore the law to suit those who don’t want to follow it” is what they actually mean, and from the first some of us have considered that to be delusional.

What we have said will happen instead is that this will create a conflict between the fans and the authorities, including the police. In that conflict, there will only be one winner and it will not be the “no pyro no party” brigade.

Yet, the idea that it’s “here to stay” is one that is so prominent in the discourse over this stuff that it’s presumed to be a fact.

But it’s not a fact at all, and that’s just one of a number of dangerous delusions which continues to swirl around the debate over this.

Let’s take the extreme example, and yet one that’s certainly not out-with the realms of possibility; indeed, it’s only a matter of time. Imagine someone is seriously injured or killed here.

The impact of that would be momentous. The backlash from fellow fans, the measures which the Scottish Government would introduce in that circumstance and the whole ugliness of the public mood would wipe this stuff away in a heartbeat.

So much for “here to stay”. It would be more like “gone tomorrow.”

The question is, should we wait for a tragedy before we act? How are we supposed to look ourselves in the mirror if we do?

There were people who saw Bradford coming; they were ignored. There were people who saw Heysel coming. They weren’t listened to. There were people who saw Hillsborough foreshadowed in incidents all across football … they sounded the alarm in plenty of time to make grounds safer and save all those lives. Nothing was done.

There were three – count them; 1,2,3 – fatal incidents at Ibrox before changes were made. The first one should have stopped the train in its tracks, and if not that then the second should have. Yet it took the larger disaster before sanity prevailed.

These were preventable tragedies. All of them.

All of them were the results of legislative weakness and a failure on the parts of certain agencies to get control of what were clearly dangerous situations. That’s what will make this one different.

All involved in the legislative side of this know this stuff is dangerous and that something terrible is going to happen as a result of it. They know that in the event of a tragedy that the flak aimed at the fans who are involved will be nothing compared to the outpouring of fury which will be unleashed on them for allowing things to get to that point.

A tragedy is inevitable. The Scottish Government is well aware of it. Anyone who thinks they are going to wait until it happens before taking this on is not hearing the beating of the drums. The legislature has already moved. The conflict is already here.

In the aftermath of Sunday, the Scottish Government – represented at the game by the First Minister himself – has announced that the police will be armed with additional powers for the Scottish Cup Final.

There are those who will squeal at that and insist that it’s a heavy hand. I would suggest they get real and start recognising the role they’ve played in it. If more draconian measures are coming into play that’s simply what happens when a group of people openly defy the law of the land, and they don’t have any basis for complaint.

There are already complaints that the police behave “intrusively” and “provocatively” at games. This is nonsense. I’ve barely seen such a light touch applied when it comes to mass law-breaking. It frankly amazes me that the people responsible for such behaviour don’t recognise that the inevitable result of that is more, and harsher, policing.

Well the Scottish Government has expanded their powers and the latitude they have for action. Be in no doubt about what that means. It means big changes.

For openers, it means more police and stewards outside the ground. It means more searches. It means fans having to arrive at games increasingly early, to avoid queues and delays. It means security cordons. And for those who get caught with this stuff, it means an ever increasing level of sentencing and punishment, in the hope that this will deter folk.

Eventually, I can see circumstances where the police will effectively “kettle” sections of fans and prevent them leaving matches at the end of games until they’ve identified culprits and made arrests. The light-touch is effectively going bye-bye.

Don’t discount, either, serious pressure finally being put on the governing bodies. The Scottish Government is filled with people who, in their engagements with the SFA and SPFL already see organisations which do not regard themselves as accountable and which have refused to get their own houses in order in any number of ways.

The contempt which those in the governing bodies displayed towards the parliamentarians the last time they appeared in front of them was breath-taking, mortifying and left a lasting impression in those who sat across from them. Those people will wait for the appropriate moment to seek revenge and we will all be worse off for it.

What would forcing them to take action look like?

Well, even on the soft side, the game yesterday could very easily have been delayed by that swirling smoke which filled the ground and reduced the visibility of the watching audience at the start of the match. Had the referee taken both teams off the pitch and delayed kick-off for even a half hour the message would have been clear and would have rung out loudly.

Other pressures will be brought to bear.

Licensing bodies will consider imposing harsher demands on the club. If they threaten to shut, even temporarily, sections of the ground in the event that flares and smoke bombs continue to be seen we really will have an issue.

Not that we don’t have an issue now. The warnings have not been heeded, even when the new legislation was being pushed through by the Executive. There is zero political support for flares and smoke bombs in grounds; that law would have passed no matter which party was in office. It will come into full force and effect within weeks.

Our fans need to know that, and they need to know what it means.

To be blunt, it doesn’t mean anything good. Inconvenience at the very least, and possibly much, much more. No-one can pretend that it’s a surprise. This is what we’ve been headed for.

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  • Martin says:

    I don’t think the “no pyro no party” eejits actually believe that they’re in the wrong, or that the police are perfectly justified in expanding searches. I’d be in favour of immediate ejection and lifelong ban for anyone caught with pyro inside a football ground. It is completely unacceptable and we’ve had years of warning about it.

  • Roonsa says:

    Brilliant article. Thank you.

  • Steve Dickson says:

    It’s about time

  • BJM says:

    Totally agree James not only someone being injured/burns etc , supporters at the game with breathing difficulties asthma etc could cause a serious issue potentially fatal.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Good idea, take all the players off the park and delay the kick off for 15 minutes say, if it happens again do the same again. It will annoy the sensible fans but get them onside as to identifying the culprits. It has got to stop!

    • Woodyiom says:

      It will also annoy the players and managers who might manage to get through to these criminals (and that’s what they are – criminals – not silly naughty young men but outright criminals who don’t give a damn about anyone else or the law!)

  • John S says:

    People with breathing difficulties, lung conditions etc. could consider suing organisers for endangerment of health. Then there’s the fire hazard. The word that stuck out for me was “dangerous”. Please, Bhoys, put the adult toys away, if not for others then for the good of the club.

  • Magua says:

    The ‘casuals’ in our support don’t give a flying feck. These little bastards will continue to behave as they wish. Lawwell and his mob have a cosy relationship with these ‘ceasefire soldiers.” Get them TF.

    Hail Hail.

  • Martin says:

    New law passed and comes into effect next month. I bet the pyromaniacs will ignore it and harm the club.

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