Injury to fan highlights Swedish firework issue

STOCKHOLM - Swedish football authorities look set to maintain a tough stance on fireworks in stadiums in the wake of an injury sustained by a female fan in the derby between Gothenburg and GAIS this week.

Pyrotechnics are regularly seen at Swedish grounds and some fans' groups want them to be allowed in controlled conditions. However the latest in a series of incidents has highlighted the risks, according to the Swedish Football Association (SvFF).

The SvFF has cracked down on pyrotechnics inside stadiums and has instructed referees to halt play immediately if they see fireworks being used in the stands. Clubs can be heavily fined if their fans use pyrotechnics, and Mikael Santoft, general secretary of the SvFF, said that Monday's incident was evidence that their tougher line is the correct one to take.

"All pyrotechnics are forbidden, and this (fire) is the proof of how dangerous they are," he told Reuters.

The woman was treated for burns sustained when a banner caught fire after coming into contact with a Bengal firework.

The Gothenburg derby is the latest in a long line of matches to be disrupted because of unauthorised pyrotechnics.

In Stockholm the derby between Djurgarden and AIK was stopped several times, and a recent league game between Syrianska and AIK was abandoned after 20 minutes when a firecracker thrown from the stands hit an assistant referee.

The SvFF's disciplinary committee will make a decision on Thursday about whether the abandoned match between Syrianska and AIK will be replayed.

TV commentator Pelle Blohm, who was covering the Gothenburg derby for Canal Plus, said he feared the worst as the fire started to spread before kickoff in Monday night's game.

"There was a lot of paper and confetti in the stand from the tifo and it caught fire," Blohm told Reuters by telephone from Gothenburg, adding that it seemed to take a long time before fire extinguishers were deployed.

"The first (fire extinguisher) that arrived had to be thrown up to the crowd, as the stand is built in such a way that the stewards at the front couldn't do it."

Stefan Wittberg, who officiates in Sweden's Allsvenskan, has a special interest in pyrotechnics as his day job is that of station master with the Stockholm fire service.

He said Bengal fireworks reach up to 2000 degrees centigrade and can easily be concealed in jackets.

Despite the latest incident fans' representative Micke Nylander believes that fireworks add to the atmosphere.

"They create a great effect," he said. "We want to create an atmosphere and a great scene for all visitors, but we want to do it in a safe way.

"We don't want to do it until it's legal and we have the permission of the association."