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Flares don't belong in the A-League

Expert
25th July, 2010
55
2137 Reads

AEK Athens supporters are some of the most passionate in European football. They’re also renowned for lighting flares, although those who turned out at the Sydney Football Stadium yesterday were on their best behaviour.

Sydney’s ‘Festival of Football’ started off with a bang – on the pitch, at least – as Greek giants AEK slammed five past Sydney FC goalkeeper Ivan Necevski in an entertaining 5-3 victory.

Nevertheless, the Sydney supporter group – The Cove – were in fine voice throughout, no doubt owing to Football Federation Australia’s decision to overturn a hastily convened ban on banner pullovers at so-called “high risk” A-League games.

The ban would have meant that colourful banners could not be unfurled in games against Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart, at least in part due to the potential danger posed by fans lighting flares underneath flammable material.

The anger surrounding the short-lived decision was not based on the inherent health and safety issues involved, but rather the fact that the decision was made without consulting fans.

However, given that some A-League fans continue to take it upon themselves to rip flares inside A-League stadia – against the clear wishes of a vocal majority – the FFA have ready ammunition to simply ignore the vast majority of supporters due to the actions of a few.

To the eternal frustration of many, certain individuals continue to push the line that flares are an acceptable feature of the A-League landscape.

They are not – and it’s those who act according to their own agenda rather than within the interests of the greater football community who do the most damage to relations between FFA officials and law-abiding fans.

I’ve seen flares in action – Croatian supporters seemed to smuggle them in by the dozens for the critical World Cup clash against Australia in 2006 – and while some would argue that the use of what is essentially a maritime distress signal adds to the spectacle, my view is that they’re a totally unnecessary feature of the game.

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Those who insist that lighting flares adds to the occasion tend to be the last to consider that many inside the ground find them to be little more than a annoying distraction, and that’s to say nothing of those forced to suffer the nasty side effects of inhaling acrid smoke.

Then there’s the link between the kind of crowd disturbances which once marred certain games of “old soccer” and the FFA’s desperate attempts to distance themselves with a clean-cut brand of “new football.”

I’ve seen flares used as weapons by Feyenoord supporters and it’s not a pretty sight, especially when young children and families around are simply trying to enjoy a day out at the football.

As hasty as A-League officials can be to dismiss the value of fans, you can almost understand their reluctance to engage with supporters when a small minority seem hell-bent on using the competition to indulge in their own pyromaniacal fantasies.

The practice merely gives credence to the use of private security consultants like Hatamoto, and it tarnishes the image of a competition that many are desperate to see succeed.

Ripping flares might be common practice in the likes of Greek and Polish football, but there’s no need to import the phenomenon here.

Use the Bundesliga as a template if we must, with active support at its most vociferous in Germany without the unnecessary use of pyrotechnics.

There’s no place for flares in the A-League, and I can only condemn those who believe that there are.

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Let’s hope that the distress signals are left on the tin dinghy for the forthcoming season, and we can make the A-League a competition to remember for its creative, colourful and above all flare-free support.

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