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Match bans for football fans over flare offences

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Two men have been banned from attending football matches after trying to enter a League One football ground while in possession of flares last year.

Ashley McGowan, aged 20 and of Chorley in Lancashire and Ryan Heathcote, aged 20 and of Manchester, were both given a three-year football banning order after pleading guilty to possession of a firework (flare) while trying to enter a designated sports ground, where a regulated football fixture was to be held.

The pair, who were travelling away fans, came to the attention of police after they were identified by security staff as being in possession of flares while trying to enter Cheltenham Town FC’s ground for a match against Wigan Athletic FC on 11 November 2023.

McGowan was found to have hidden two large cylindrical flares within the lower part of his trouser leg and Heathcote had hidden a large cylindrical flare in the waistband of his trousers.

As well as receiving the banning order the pair were each ordered to pay costs of £165 and a fine of £200.

Dedicated Football Officer PC Adrian Tuft said: “The use of pyrotechnics or even trying to get them into a football stadium is a criminal offence.

“Here at Gloucestershire Constabulary we will always take action against anyone who is using or found to be in possession of flares. This includes both inside or while attempting to enter a football stadium.

“Anyone who is caught with flares faces becoming the subject of a Football Banning Order like McGowan and Heathcote have.

“The use of pyrotechnics at football grounds presents a real risk to fans and there have been serious injuries as a result of their use. Our primary aim is always to keep fans safe.”

John Duffy, the Safety Officer at Cheltenham Town FC added: “This was a great example of teamwork between the respective clubs safety management teams, the Police, and our security providers to ensure that two men who were intent on being involved in dangerous behaviour didn’t make it into the ground.”

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, NPCC Lead for Football Policing, said: “Recently we have seen a concerning rise in the use of pyrotechnics at football matches across the country.

“In the past two seasons the number of incidents and arrests in the UK have more than doubled, and we have seen a number of near misses for fans due to the extremely dangerous nature of these devices.

“Cases such as this show that we are working collectively to clamp down on the issue, and action will be taken against fans who are caught trying to take pyrotechnics into stadiums.”

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