Premier League - Children used to smuggle flares at English stadiums

Children as young as eight have been used to help smuggle flares and dangerous devices past security checks and into English grounds where older fans then set them off.

The fashion for lighting red-hot flares, designed for use as distress signals at sea, has been imported from continental Europe. It has long been part of the fan culture in countries like Italy.

The vast majority of incidents involve away fans trying to create a raucous atmosphere. The issue was highlighted in October when a linesman was hit by a smoke canister thrown from the crowd during Tottenham Hotspur's victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Posters are to be displayed at stadiums warning fans about the dangers of letting off flares and throwing smoke bombs, a growing problem at matches across England.

An education campaign, featuring adverts in match programmes, at grounds and online warns fans they risk being banned from matches or jailed if found in possession of what is known as a "pyro".

The adverts parody football chants to drive home the dangers that flares and smoke bombs pose to fellow supporters.

"Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to A&E (Accident & Emergency)," reads one.

More than three quarters of Premier League fans want more done to tackle the issue, according to a survey, and the trend is putting many parents off taking their children to games.

Flares can burn at temperatures of up to 1,600 Celsius - the melting point of steel. Smoke bombs can be dangerous for those with asthma or breathing problems and risk causing panic in a closely packed crowd, the Premier League said.

Across English football as a whole, there were 96 incidents involving smoke bombs and flares between the start of the season and the end of October. That compares with just eight for the full 2010-11 schedule.

The advertising campaign is being run by the Premier League, Football League and the Football Association and will launch this weekend.