On Saturday, pyros caused “only” a scar that might last for life, the next time it’s a wee boy’s eye burnt out, or worse…

Date: 1st April 2024

I was at the game between St Johnstone and Dundee last Saturday. On the way in, I had to queue up while everyone entering the stadium at the turnstile I always use was patted down by a steward.  Some people complained.  Most of them were, like me, season ticket holders and of an age in which the chances of them trying to smuggle pyrotechnics into the ground are remote.

On taking my seat, I asked the gent who sits next to me if he had been held up.  “No,” he replied, “I saw the queue at that turnstile so I simply went to the next one where no-one was being searched.”

Of course, before the game began, the pyros began to be lit.  They were only in the North Stand, where the Dundee support, including their ‘ultras’ were seated.  It was only the ultras who lit them.  Clearly, the searching hadn’t gone very well… At the time, I thought the pyros were a bit weedy, with not much smoke and flame – perhaps some of these so-called “safe” pyros that we hear about from those who think they add to the atmosphere at games.

The fact that the smoke cleared quite quickly made me glad that there wasn’t too much disruption and although the stewards had attended to the scene (though the police reinforcements seemed to take much longer to arrive), I thought nothing more of it, until I got a message from one of my fellow SFSA directors, who just happens to be a former chairman of Dundee. He had seen the following, posted on a Dundee social media page:

“Just want to thank everyone for the messages and calls regarding Levi Rennie. Yes he was hit in the face with a flare at the game today. He was given immediate treatment from the parademics (sic) and great care again at Ninewells. The plastic surgeons have said he will be scarred but they cant decide treatment for at least 12months and fully healed. (my emphasis) Levi is really shaken but we are hoping🙏 he will be back on the drum soon 🥁 For the record we do not know who threw the flare, nor do we care. Yes we are angry but we also know it was an accident. Please dont point the finger of blame at anyone. But guys please stop the flares 🙏 ⚽️ 💙

There was also a photo of the 12 year old who had been hit by the flare. I’m have not reproduced it because, without permission from his parents I don’t think it right to do so, but take it from me it’s not a pretty sight. The scorch mark is inches from his eye and his face is clearly burned over a wide area.

Despite the Dundee fan’s post above asking for clemency and saying they don’t care who threw the flare, that – fortunately – isn’t the view of the police. The Dundee Courier now reports that four teenagers have been arrested over the incident.

This comes after League of Ireland club, Derry City, have received a fine of €2,500 for the use of pyros by fans at their ground. This is on top of previous fines totalling €3,500 for use of pyros by their fans at away grounds.  In the club statement, they note: “There is also a strong possibility of a ban on our supporters travelling to away games if there are any more reported pyrotechnic offences this season. These fines are unsustainable for our Club and eats into our finances which cannot be tolerated going forward and the safety of our supporters is of paramount concern.”

It will be interesting to see if the Dundee ‘ultras’ set fire to any more pyros.  I suspect that if they do, other Dundee fans will point them out to the police.  We hear reports of some other Premiership clubs’ fans who (bravely) have identified their fellow fans who have lit pyros and as a result some of the latter have been banned from games. This can take real courage, because, sadly, there are still those who think pyros add “atmosphere” to games and they are not prepared to let anyone stand in their way.  They say that Bradford can’t happen now because we don’t have old, wooden stands (lots of Scottish clubs, even some Premier ones, still have wooden stands – and last time I checked, plastic burns quite nicely).  They say that they don’t do anyone any harm.  There’s a wee boy in Dundee who begs to differ.  The next time, it could be your son, your daughter, your mum, sister, brother or dad. It could be their face, their eye or, heaven forbid, their life. As the Dundee fan wrote above, “guys, please stop the flares…”

Alastair Blair, Director of Operations, SFSA

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