World of Sport

Protest against flare ban goes badly wrong

Football fans with a flare (Reuters)

A fan protest over the use of flares at football matches in Germany went horribly wrong at the weekend - after several banners caught fire and five supporters suffered burns.

The protest - which was supposed to rail against a number of repressive measures being brought in by the German Football League to make stadia safer places - was organised by members of Hamburg supporters' club 'The Chosen Few'.

Masked fans made the defiant gesture by lighting flares in the away section of the Espirit Arena prior to kick-off in the Bundesliga match against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

But the protest did not go entirely as planned, as four banners burst into flames, causing what one eyewitness described as "the beginnings of a mass panic" in the stands - exactly what the new measures have been introduced to stop.

Even a 12-year-old flag went down in the blaze, leaving some fans in tears - the organisation's terms of association states that if one of their sacred banners are destroyed, the club must be disbanded. However, it was later agreed the club should remain intact as the cause of destruction was an accident.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a bad day for Hamburg, as the team went on to lose 2-0.
The club, currently sitting 10th in the Bundesliga, now face a five-figure fine and chairman Carl-Edgar Jarchow promised those responsible would be identified and punished.
Players were equally unimpressed by the behaviour of the fans, with midfielder Maximilian Beister saying: "Many ultras demand the legal right to use flares. But if you behave in this way, you don't have to be surprised that it won't be allowed. That was unbelievably disappointing."

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a bad day for Hamburg, as the team went on to lose 2-0.

The club, currently sitting 10th in the Bundesliga, now face a five-figure fine and chairman Carl-Edgar Jarchow promised those responsible would be identified and punished.

Players were equally unimpressed by the behaviour of the fans, with midfielder Maximilian Beister saying: "Many ultras demand the legal right to use flares. But if you behave in this way, you don't have to be surprised that it won't be allowed. That was unbelievably disappointing."

Ironically, the botched protest may well have played right into the DFL's lap, with the hardcore supporters' group apparently now considering re-thinking their stance on the use of flares.

"We are shocked about the extent of this severe incident," the Chosen Few said in a statement. "This action has shown us that (pyrotechnics) don't work LIKE THAT."

Before the weekend, their standpoint had been markedly different, with their website stating: "The DFL has come up with a delightful-sounding concept called 'sicheres Stadionerlebnis' (safe stadium experience).

"This concept/plan contains demands that interfere deeply with the rights and dignity of football fans.

"If the plan is accepted, football will no longer be what it is today. The DFL wants to kill off fan culture."

Apparently not before the fans kill off themselves first.