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Soccer safety concerns as new season ‘kicks off’

A new soccer season has highlighted a number of safety concerns at football stadiums. In England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers has issued a statement setting out their joint policy on the way violence, disorder, criminal damage and abuse in and around football matches will be approached.

The statement identifies “emerging challenges” for police and prosecutors, including homophobic chanting, the assault of players by fans and the use of flares or fireworks within grounds. These are issues affecting steward training and ground rules.

Nick Hawkins, lead sports prosecutor at the CPS, said most football fans were well behaved and there had been a rise in the numbers of families at matches because of “friendlier atmospheres”.

Hawkins told the BBC that guidelines previously issued had helped reduce homophobic chanting so that prosecutions were now fewer. A deterrent which is proving effective is the banning order, which lasts a minimum of three years.

In Burma, Myanmar football supporters tore up seats and invaded the pitch in Wunna Theikdi Stadium during a league match between Naypyidaw FC and Yangon United FC attended by 20,000.

The stadium has just been built in the capital Naypyidaw for the 27th SEA Games. AFP reported that the inaugural game was called off before the half-time whistle after fighting broke out between the players and spread to the fans.

The wider stadium complex will hold a variety of sporting events during the Games, including swimming, archery and boxing. Photo courtesy of SEA Games Myanmar.

Celtic has closed a section of their stadium in Glasgow, Scotland,  to ensure meeting its Stadium General Safety Certificate after warnings to fans to remain seated during matches were ignored. Fans in section 111, home to the ‘Green Brigade’, will now be offered a refund or given the chance to relocate. A club statement read:

We have been left with no option but to take steps to ensure the safety of our supporters.

The club mentioned unsafe “lateral movement of spectators” and “body surfing” and damage to 190 seats over the last four home matches. At a recent Champions League qualifier against Cliftonville, pyrotechnics were set off during the match requiring a stadium announcement. The club is now subject to disciplinary action for a contravention of UEFA’s safety and security regulations.