Hated by the board, lauded by the fans, the flare has always very much been seen as a symbol of the ‘ultra’ or ‘tifosi’ and something that has never really made it big in England. This may simply be due to our incredibly strict policy on flares, and indeed any kind of fireworks, due the promotion of a more family friendly atmosphere since the outlawing of terracing, or it may simply be due to the fact that the idea of a select group of fans, the ‘ultras’, who provide the atmosphere and usually contain a die-hard follower with a megaphone and a bare-chested, suitably tattooed, man with a drum. As of now, there is only one club based in England who has embraced the Tifosi way of life. This is Crystal Palace. However, even they have not reached the incredible choreography levels of the Delije of Olympiacos CFP and Red Star Belgrade for example, whose incredible displays fill the stadium with light (and smoke) and create an atmosphere to literally ‘fire’ their team towards victory. These displays have always been a source of marvel to English fans and this has been shown in that a few always appear in the crowd whenever a European night away arises in countries where it is almost obligatory to have them. If the fans want them, why not simply have a trial period and moderate the amount entering the ground?
The flare has undergone somewhat of a resurgence this season in England, with several lower league clubs doing nothing to intervene when a flare is sparked in the crowd, either post-goal or post-game. For example, those fortunate enough to watch the recent Brentford-Chelsea fixture, either live, or on ESPN, will have noticed that 3 to 4 flares were lit in the Ealing Road End and were allowed to burn out, thankfully ignored by stewards, instead of the usual furore caused by the event of even one being set alight. This has not been the only flare in evidence this season at either Griffin Park or throughout England. You may argue that it has been strictly in the more-lax, less regimented lower divisions of the Football League, but West Ham set off a flare while at Tottenham this current Premier League season and suffered no repercussions to my knowledge. The only repercussions that have been seen are the preposterous lifetime bans handed out by the Wigan board to a few fans that set off a solitary flare. They cited the reason that Wigan has the image of a family club and this disrupted this image. However Wigan, who infamously suffer from very low attendances, could do well in permitting flares in areas of the ground, which would promote an image of ultras and which in turn would attract new, younger fans.
The only problems involved with the allowance of flares are, of course, the usually large quantity of smoke produced by setting them alit. Also, the issue with what to do with them once they have burned out, as a problem that is often seen in foreign country’s is that the ultras, left holding a piece of hot metal, throw them onto the pitch, causing delays and that they can be used as potentially dangerous weapons if used as projectiles.
In conclusion, I and, as I am sure, a decent proportion of fans would like to see the flare unbanned at English grounds. This would allow the FA to monitor how they were used and how many were set off per game and could, if they were used safely, pave the way towards a permanent rule change.