By Tony Attwood
We know now that some visiting supporters will bring flares into the ground. Everton and Liverpool supporters do it, as to supporters of some continental teams.
We know it happens, and we know they are very dangerous indeed. Flares and smoke bombs can cause huge amounts of personal damage, as well as spoil the enjoyment of people sitting around the area.
We also know from the comments of Everton fans on this site that some of those who support some clubs whose supporters engage in this behaviour, will defend the practice, and think that it is totally ok.
Last night the game was stopped, flares were thrown on the pitch as well as being let off in the crowd, and the stewards were, once again, seemingly powerless. Powerless to stop people bringing in flares, and powerless to stop them letting them off.
So what now?
As I understand it, in Uefa’s terms Arsenal FC are responsible for law and order within the ground, which is understandable. So if this continues we could run the danger of having part of our ground closed because of public order offences.
I can understand Arsenal not wanting to say anything about this problem at first, because if they had a plan for dealing with flares, they might well not want to disclose it to one and all.
But if they have had a plan, it clearly has failed. Not only has it failed to stop flares, the problem has got worse. Fans of other teams seeing the events, might well have been encouraged to bring in ever more flares, knowing that they are likely to go through security.
In the meanwhile, as one supporter near me last night side, “Arsenal get worked up about bringing a plastic top of a bottle in site of the pitch, but we have this going on.”
I think it is time for Arsenal to take steps, and to let us loyal supporters who are in the ground, know what they are doing.
First off, are they going to admit that there is nothing that they can do to stop flares coming into the ground? Come on Arsenal, be honest here. Is it just impossible to control this?
If it is, then let’s talk about banning visiting support from clubs that are known for bringing in flares. We can be fair about this – tell all the clubs in advance, and then if their supporters come in and let off flares then that’s it. They are banned for one year. If then they do it again, they are all banned for three years.
Second, if there is a new plan for stopping flares, we don’t need to know what it is, just let us know there is a plan. Then if it fails we can come back to the banning option.
This tells us that our club is not running around like a headless chicken, but has the matter in hand.
Let us not think nothing is going to happen from Uefa. They might be slow and dozy but sometimes they do act. For example in August this year Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against Malmö for insufficient organisation and the setting off of fireworks in their ground by supporters. Uefa ordered a partial closure of Malmö New Stadium during one Uefa competition match in which Malmö would play as the host club and said which bit of the ground it wanted closed. This suspension was deferred under a probationary period of two years; and a fine of €30,000 imposed.
The fine won’t worry Arsenal, and nor will closing of part of the ground if it is for away support, but Uefa has the option to close other parts of the ground too. Roma’s ground is under investigation too.
We know that following the use of flares by Liverpool and Everton fans the police and others reduced the number of visiting supporters that were allowed in the ground – this presumably could go further.
Meanwhile, The Daily Mail, commenting today, said that Uefa said action could be taken against the clubs once the match delegate has submitted their report. They also said that flares were also set off under a bridge near Finsbury Park by Galatasaray fans, and that a huge police presence escorted 3,000 Turkish supporters to the Emirates.
Maybe they were, but while Drew and I were sitting at Piebury Corner having our pies and drinks prior to the match we saw many Galatasary fans walking along Holloway Road in groups with no escort at all.
‘We are aware of a number of flares being ignited and thrown on to the pitch at the Emirates Stadium,’ a police spokesperson told Press Association Sport. ‘There were also some flares thrown near to the Tollington Arms on Hornsey Road. ‘Police will be reviewing CCTV footage from inside the stadium and of the surrounding streets.’
So we wait.
But finally on a different front, here’s the team from the under 21 game against the same opposition, which we won 5-1.
Ryan Huddart; Chiori Johnson, Stefan O’Connor (Eliot Wright 67), George Dobson, Tafari Moore (Marc Bola 74); Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Daniel Crowley, Gedion Zelalem; Alex Iwobi (c), Kaylen Hinds (Stephy Mavididi 80), Chris Willock
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