The debate over the right to use pyro and flares in football stadiums has gained a great deal of momentum in recent years. There is no doubt about it; the use of pyro to some fans is exciting. Photos of smoke bombs and flares being used at European matches give the impression of a colourful and high adrenaline crowd of fans.
There is little consensus or universal regulation on the use of flares during domestic competition. In England the supporters’ rights organization (FSF) has opened a campaign to keep them out of football stadiums as the vast majority of fans have voted for them to be banned. Conversely, fans across mainland Europe have campaigned aggressively to overturn the ban, often disregarding the rule all together. As a result, collective stadium bans have become commonplace throughout the continent’s terraces, only increasing tensions between fans and the football bodies.
Last March, the Rapid Vienna supporters were banned from sitting in the away sector in their derby against Austria Vienna after ignoring league warnings to limit their use of flares. Since, Rapid CEO Christoph Peschek pushed to reach an agreement with the league allowing his supporters a special exception to the rule.
The Ultras Rapid will now be allowed to use pyro four times per game as well as after every goal in pre established safety zones. This is not the first time that authorities in Austria have made a special agreement with football fans, however it is a step in the right direction, after years of increased repression.
Last weekend Rapid Vienna defeated rivals Austria Vienna at home in the Vienna Derby. They elected not to use any pyro, and rather decorate their stands with choreographies depicting the cities major monuments. As the season draws to a close, the Ultras Rapid have stated that they will not abide by the new rule and will continue to push for deregulation. In any case, its nice to see a clubs at least attempting to stand up to the football authorities in order to appease their supporters.