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New rules on the use of fireworks at football matches

Bengal fire. Credit: Belga

Football fans will soon be faced with stricter rules on the use of fireworks at matches in Belgium following new measures announced by Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden on Monday.

The laws will soon be revised to clamp down on the use of flares, smoke grenades and fireworks and were unveiled alongside representatives of the Pro League, the Belgian Football Union, as well as bus drivers for Division 1 teams.

The federal government adopted a draft bill that increases the minimum fines for offences. Under the proposed bill, the use of flares carries an administrative fine of €1,000 and a two-year ban from stadiums. The use of other pyrotechnics bears an administrative fine of €500 and a one-year ban from stadiums.

Verlinden added that bringing banned objects to sporting events will also no longer be tolerated. Furthermore, the use of fireworks and other pyrotechnics will now be punishable up to 48 hours before or after a match, meaning that they will be prohibited during pre-match training, celebrations, and the transfer of players by bus.

Football clubs have committed to measures aiming to discourage the use of pyrotechnics by their supporters. Alongside clubs, the Interior Minister aims to support local authorities and the police with new guidelines intended to simplify the prevention of pyrotechnics.

The new bill comes in the wake of calls from team bus drivers who expressed their concern about the safety of match transfers. Team busses for RSC Anderlecht, Club Brugge, KAA Gent, Standard, Antwerp and KV Mechelen were present at the Roi Badouin Stadium, where the announcement was made.

“What happens if we run somebody over? We’re driving blind with zero visibility. The fans need to understand that they can support their team but they must remain at a safe distance,” said Luc Heirweg, driver of the RSCA team bus.

146 incidents involving pyrotechnics in or around football stadiums have so far been recorded in 2021, notably when the public were not permitted to enter owing to the pandemic. Several players and busses have been harmed.

The Brussels Times