Government must do more to stop sale of smoke grenades, says MK Dons' safety boss

Smoke grenades were thrown during the game against Portsmouth
Smoke grenades were thrown during the game against Portsmouth

Ejection, arrest, three months in prison and a minimum three-year banning order from every ground in the country - but the punishment for letting off a smoke grenade at MK Dons games isn’t proving enough of a warning, and Stadium MK’s security manager is calling out for the government to do more.

In each of Dons’ last three homes games - against Coventry, Portsmouth and Charlton - coloured smoke has been seen billowing from the away end as fans set off the canisters to celebrate their side scoring.

Coventry fans smuggled their smoke grenades into the away end

Coventry fans smuggled their smoke grenades into the away end

Back in November, all 72 EFL clubs signed up the the 'Chairman's Charter' - a motion to regulate the punishments for bringing pyrotechnics into football grounds.

Smoke grenades are readily available online, much the frustration of Stadium MK’s Safety and Security Manager Andy Standen, who is urging the government to tighten the restrictions on who can buy them.

“They are very easy to get hold of and it’s a huge frustration,” he said. “I hope the government put in measures to stop these sales because anyone can go online and buy these.

“Half the problem is the ease being able to get hold of them. It’s a very small minority who are out to spoil it for others. But sadly it’s a growing minority.

Charlton fans let off white and red smoke grenades last Saturday

Charlton fans let off white and red smoke grenades last Saturday

“These things can go off in your hands, and it’s not hard to find videos online of it happening. You could lose fingers, and your clothes could go up.”

Despite having around 300 security and stewards, eight grenades were lit when Portsmouth fans travelled in number two weeks ago, but it resulted in two arrests.

Fans spotted letting the grenades off can be picked up by the CCTV at Stadium MK within 12 seconds, but Mr Standen admitted it is getting harder to detect where people hide them before entering the ground.

He said: “In terms of what the clubs can do, searching and stopping people from entry, we’re at the limit to what we can do.

Used smoke grenades collected after the game against Portsmouth

Used smoke grenades collected after the game against Portsmouth

“We sit down with police and scan all the information we know about the teams coming and the likelihood of bringing smokes bombs in. Around that assessment, we decide what measures we will take on a match-day: what search regimes we’re going to undertake, whether it will be 100 per cent search rates, what information we put out before hand too. We may even put in metal detectors and sniffer dogs as well.

“The bulk of people we find tend to be younger males, so without stereotyping, we do profile the crowd as they come in through the gates.

“We’re not tarring everyone with the same brush, but targeting the ones who are more likely to do it.

“People tend not to realise the consequences of what they’re doing,” he added. “It’s against the law and ground regulations, but there are harmful effects on people around you. People letting these smoke bombs off and people with breathing difficulties or young children can cause panic.”

While most fans do not object to having their bags searched or a pat-down by security before entering, Mr Standen said some take exception, but insisted the searches are being carried out for the benefit of everyone.

“We’re definitely not out to ruin anyone’s day,” he added. “But to stop someone else ruining their day.

“Most fans wants to watch their team peacefully, they don’t want their day spoiled by someone using one of these grenades.”