• Football

Police chief claims flares in grounds a 'real worry'

ESPN staff
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Assistant referee David Bryan was hit by a flare at Villa Park on Sunday © PA Photos
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The rising number of flares being taken into football grounds is becoming a "real worry", according to the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Andy Holt, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, says he is anxious to crack down on the problem after assistant referee David Bryan was hit by a flare during Tottenham's win at Aston Villa on Sunday.

"Last year, we saw an increase in the use of flares and pyrotechnic devices by nearly 140% compared to the previous season," Holt said.

"Arrests for the possession of a firework or a flare were up more than 150%, so it is certainly something we are seeing becoming more prevalent in today's game and it's a real worry for us.

"It is prevalent abroad and I would argue they have a greater problem than we do in this country. But I'm anxious that we don't head the same way and it does not become embedded in the culture of English football.

"It is no way appropriate to let off either smoke flares or fireworks inside a stadium. Those that argue that it gives a European flavour to the occasion are plain wrong."

Two men were arrested by West Midlands police following the incident at Villa Park, in which Bryan was struck on the back of the neck. He was able to continue without treatment.

In May, a teenager was hospitalised after a smoke bomb was thrown during Villa's game at Wigan, while in February, a 14-year-old boy was killed by a flare thrown by supporters during a South American Libertadores Cup match in Bolivia.

"It is not appropriate to let off smoke flares or fireworks inside a stadium," Holt added.

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