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Fourfold rise in fireworks set off at games

INCIDENTS of fireworks being set off at football matches in Scotland have increased fourfold since 2010, figures reveal.

Statistics provided by Police Scotland show that pyrotechnic devices were confiscated more than 50 times during the current football season, up to the end of 2013.

This compares to 15 for the entire 2010/11 season, with steady increases to 25 and then 44 in the following two seasons, before rising to the current peak.

The problem affected five clubs in 2010/11 compared to 16 in the five months between August and the end of December last year.

The figures, obtained by MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, come after 25 football fans - including some as young at 14 - were arrested or referred to the Children's Reporter following an incident at Fir Park stadium in December, where dozens of fireworks, flares and smoke bombs were ignited during a Motherwell-Celtic match.

Mr Mason, who obtained the figures from Police Scotland using freedom of information, said: "With football attendances declining - including at my own club, Clyde - it is important that we do all we can to encourage people back to the games.

"You can understand why families are reluctant to take their kids to games when there is anti-social behaviour such as using fireworks or flares.

"Of course we want to encourage a lively atmosphere at football matches but these devices are extremely dangerous and can cause extensive damage as was the case at Falkirk earlier in the season."

No data was available prior to 2009 when the use of pyrotechnics by football supporters was recorded by the UK's Football Policing Unit, and although there is no record of fireworks being released or confiscated during the 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons this is most likely because the information was not collected.

Since June 2011, the Football Coordination Unit for Scotland has worked with police to coordinate football intelligence, enforcing football-related legislation and supporting post-match investigations.

In its FoI response, Police Scotland stated: "The indicated rise in the use of pyrotechnics is in part due to an increasing awareness of the need to record their use. The data will not include matches where there has been no police presence.

"While the current season 'to date' figure indicates a rise again in the use of pyrotechnics, recent high-profile incidents such as damage to Falkirk FC's pitch by a flare and the excessive use seen at Fir Park seem to have led to a reduction in their use during January."

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