Simply Red: Flares at Harrow Borough? The FA need to get their priorities right

Flares: Really a problem at non-league grounds?

Flares: Really a problem at non-league grounds? - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Last week Harrow Borough, like every other senior non-league club, received a wad of documents from the Football Association to publicise the campaign to eradicate flares from football grounds. It’s gone on the club’s website and will get a mention in the match-day programme on Saturday (when Borough host Bury Town), but I wonder whether the FA have their priorities right.

Yes, flares are very dangerous things and anyone bringing them into a football ground should face the full weight of the law. But is such an occurrence likely in the Ryman League?

Exceptionally unlikely I would think. Even our good friends from Wealdstone, arriving at Earlsmead singing their jolly ditty about cows and sparrows, would be extremely unlikely to do so with such pyrotechnics in their ‘armoury’.

Meanwhile, last week also saw two stories on match-fixing. Two players from Whitehawk, last season’s Ryman Premier champions, were arrested, while in Australia two players who not long ago were playing for AFC Hornchurch pleaded guilty to ‘conduct that corrupts a betting outcome.

In comparison to cricket, tennis or golf, football doesn’t seem particularly open to fixing.

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Unlike those three, surely one single person could not have any degree of certainty that he could fix something in a game? But Europol are putting a lot of resource into investigating it and so there is likely to be some fire behind that smoke.

And when some stories state that the betting relates to players getting booked, for instance, then that brings the actions of single individuals far more into play.

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If football is vulnerable to such practices, then football at Ryman level and similar must be especially so. The players are not well paid, and yet the scores of games, and activities within them such as yellow and red cards, are now beamed world-wide, as they happen, through media such as Twitter and football web pages.

The FA’s response on this worries me. At the time of writing the FA website has just a brief three-line statement on the matter, concluding that they will make no further comment at this time. In recent weeks they’ve noted that they are working with the Professional Footballers’ Association: well, the part-time players at this level are unlikely to be members.

They’ve talked about how club padres can help: I doubt if many Ryman clubs have made such an appointment. It seems to me that it’s presently left up to the management of all clubs at this level to drive home the message to every one of their players to sound the alert if ever they receive any suspicious approach.

Come on FA, this is more relevant to your lower level members than the threat to spectators from rockets!

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