SCOTTISH government legislation is the only way to curb the illegal use of pyrotechnics at football matches by supporters according to the MSP who has campaigned for the introduction of strict liability in this country for the past seven years.

James Dornan, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, was horrified when he saw the number of flares, smokes bombs, strobes and rockets which were set off by fans of both Celtic and Rangers at the Viaplay Cup final at Hampden, which is located in his constituency, on Sunday.

Dornan, who tabled a draft proposal at Holyrood for a bill which would make clubs strictly liable for their supporters’ conduct in 2016, has written to the SFA, SPFL and Police Scotland about the scenes he witnessed in the match.

However, he stated that he has no faith in the senior clubs or governing bodies addressing a problem which is on the rise across the country and revealed that he will be urging the government to take steps to do so. 

MSPs have been reluctant to become actively involved in Scottish football since the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was repealed in 2018.

But Dornan believes parliament has to act before somebody is seriously injured.

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“I am completely opposed to the use of pyrotechnics at football matches,” he said. “It is illegal, it is a danger to public health, it is a danger to everyone around the person using them, it is completely inconsiderate of the normal football fan.

“It is something that football clubs, governing bodies and even supporters should be doing everything that they can to get rid of. I am in the process of writing to all of the appropriate bodies, the police, the SPFL, the SFA and others about this issue.

“But I am going to be pushing the government on things they need to do because you can guarantee the clubs and the governing bodies will not do anything unless they are forced into it. They have shown that.”

Dornan added: “The Scottish parliament was told in the last session that there weren’t the legal powers to push it (strict liability) through. But I have started pushing the government more and more to take this seriously.

“Because what will happen eventually is that one of those rockets that the clown at Hampden on Sunday was setting off from the end of a six foot-long pole will go into somebody’s face. Then everybody will be up in arms and will say: ‘How did we let this occur?’

The Herald:

“I will also be writing to both Keith (justice secretary Brown) and Maree (minister for sport Todd). The government have to say: ‘This is unacceptable and if the SFA or SPFL haven’t sorted this out within a very definitive timescale we will be taking legislative action’. That is the only way that it can be addressed in my view.”

Celtic closed the safe-standing section at Parkhead for two games in 2017 after Glasgow City Council expressed concern about the flares being set off under a banner display and warned the renewal of their stadium safety certificate – which is needed for the operation of the stadium – was at risk.

Dornan feels that taking the responsibility for awarding safety certificates away from local authorities could allow Holyrood to address crowd disorder at matches.

“I want strict liability,” he said. “This time I am looking to do it with a licensing approach. Clubs already have to show that stadiums are safe and secure places. They have a responsibility to those who go and watch the game and those who participate in it. But they can’t be safe and secure places if people are setting off fireworks.

“If the government say there is a standard safety certificate across the whole of Scotland instead of leaving it to each individual authority, that is fine. It is a route that I see is there. If somebody can come up with another route to achieve the same thing then I would be open it.”

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Westminster set up a Fan Led Review of Football Governance in England following the European Super League crisis in 2021 and are set to appoint an independent regulator of the game down south as a result of the findings.

Dornan would also like to see a similar survey in Scotland carried out – which he is certain will show widespread concern about the use of pyrotechnics among the vast majority of supporters – and believes a regulator would also benefit the game in this country.

“I have written to Maree about the fan review they had down in England and suggested that could be done up here,” he said. “If we did that there is an opportunity for fans to put forward their case and say: ‘We don’t want this’.

“If you had a completely independent regulator it would be a great thing. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a football person. It just needs to be somebody who can hold people to account. There are thousands of issues in Scottish football, not just pyrotechnics.”