After Celtic’s decision to issue provisional suspensions to 128 supporters alleged to have been party to trouble at Fir Park in a league game against Motherwell on Friday night, Rangers have imposed an indefinite ban on a teenage girl following her involvement in a flare incident that caused damage to Falkirk’s new synthetic pitch last month.
A section of the astroturf surface was singed when the pyrotechnic was thrown from the away support seconds after the final whistle of last month’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash at the Falkirk Stadium. Rangers won the match 2-0 with goals by Nicky Law and David Templeton.
However, the result of the fourth-round tie was overshadowed by the letting off of a flare in the away supporters’ stand, something which has become much more prevalent in Scottish football in recent times.
Emma Leslie, who is 16, denied two charges, including possessing a flare in a sports ground, during an appearance at Falkirk Sheriff Court last week.
The plastic pitch at the Westfield stadium was only installed in the summer and Rangers have told Falkirk’s directors that they will pay for the repairs. The club have also now handed an “indefinite” ban to the female supporters who has been charged for her “unacceptable behaviour”.
A Rangers club spokesperson yesterday added: “She will be banned from attending all home and away games following the flare incident at the [Falkirk] match. The club will continue to assist Police Scotland with their enquiries as they attempt to identify others who may have been involved.”
Falkirk officials said damage to their new synthetic turf pitch would run to a six-figure amount.
Leslie, of Edinburgh Road, Glasgow, appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court last Friday after being held in custody overnight. She was accused of possessing a “controlled substance” in a sports ground. It was also
alleged that, while acting with another meantime unknown to the prosecutor, she culpably and recklessly lit a flare and threw it onto the playing surface and thereby damaged the playing surface.
Falkirk general manager David White yesterday called for flares to be stamped out of football before someone is severely injured. He is now in no doubt about the damage they can cause after seeing at first hand the burnt-out section of the pitch where the flare landed during the Scottish Cup fixture 12 days ago.
He said: ‘What really surprised us when we were told is that these things burn at 1600 degrees. So you can imagine the damage that could do if it actually hit someone.
“The damage it did to the actual surface was bad enough but, if it actually hit someone, it could cause considerable personal injury.
“It is really becoming a threat to personal injury and that’s something we need to stamp out.”
While the onus is on the clubs to stop the people carrying flares into stadia in the first place, White reckons the football authorities can play their part.
He added: “I think it’s going to need a joint initiative. It is almost an education programme that’s going to have to be led by the SFA and by the SPFL to get this message over to fans that this is unacceptable.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has made clear his distaste for pyrotechnic activities among supporters at football matches. Earlier this week, he issued his support for the Celtic board, who acted quickly to ban supporters believed to have been involved in the throwing of flares and smoke bombs on to the pitch and the vandalising of a number of seats during Friday night’s 5-0 win against Motherwell.
As well as the provisional suspensions handed to over 100 of the club’s fans, another 250 season ticket-holders from Section 111 at Celtic Park, housing the Green Brigade group of fans, are being relocated. “I don’t like to see flares and I don’t like seeing smoke bombs,” said Lennon.
“I don’t think they bring anything to the game and obviously the damage done at Fir Park is not like us.”