SUPPORT for legalising the use of pyrotechnics by fans at football matches is growing in Germany amid widespread unhappiness over heavy-handed policing and high financial penalties following a successful trial at a Hamburg game.

Representatives of several Hamburg ultras groups – under the watchful eye of trained pyrotechnicians and the local fire brigade - set off 10 smoke pots in front of the North Stand in the Volksparkstadion before a Bundesliga 2 fixture against Karlsruhe in the February of 2020.

The display, which was approved by both the German Football Association and local authorities, took place as both teams walked out onto the park ahead of kick-off, passed off without incident and was declared a resounding success by those involved afterwards.

"That was a good first step," said Hamburg chief executive Bernd Hoffmann. "We will now reflect on this with all networks and people involved. And then we'll see what the next steps might look like. It cannot be that something which is commonplace at every music concert is then not allowed at football.”

The experiment has not been repeated since – but earlier this season Werder Bremen president Hubertus Hess-Grunewald spoke in favour of allowing the use of flares and smoke canisters in a controlled environment in the German game.

Hess-Grunewald, whose club is involved in a legal dispute with the German Football Association and the Bremen state over the high cost of policing games, is concerned about the treatment of ordinary supporters by police who are attempting to stop the use pyrotechnics.

The Herald:

"There is a form of police repression that we cannot approve of in our free democratic state,” said Hess-Grunewald after searches of Werder fans who had travelled to the opening Bundesliga match of the season against VfL Wolfgsburg at the Volkswagen Arena in August caused a furore.  

“I advocate a political corrective. We must talk about a controlled and legal use of pyrotechnics. The controlled burning of pyro could be a way out of an escalating spiral of repression and criminalisation.”

Werder tested so-called “cold” flares which were developed by a Brondby fan in Denmark back in 2019 in the presence of security staff and the fire service. However, it was found the flares still emitted toxic gases and burned at temperatures of up to 500 degress Celsius.

There is currently a complete ban on the use of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs inside stadiums in Germany and breaches of the rules can lead to clubs being hit with large fines and other sanctions being imposed by the national association. 

The 2020 trial arose out of widespread unhappiness at fines totalling €1,056,525 being handed during the 2018/19 season and Hamburg, who were the worst offenders in the country, having to pay out €294,000.  


Supporters of “legal pyro” argue that fewer injuries have been caused by flares and smoke bombs at matches than by the pepper spray that police have used on fans who have set them off in the stands.

Meanwhile, football in Portugal appears to be heading in completely the opposite direction.

The government there is working on legislation called the Legal Regime for Explosives and Dangerous Substances and anyone who takes a pyrotechnic into a football match could face a jail term of up to five years if it is passed in parliament.