Charity calls for changes after smoke bomb thrown into wheelchair-user area of Stadium of Light during Sunderland vs Birmingham

A charity supporting disabled fans have condemned those responsible after a smoke bomb was thrown into a wheelchair-user area of the Stadium of Light as Sunderland took on Birmingham in the Championship.
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The incident occurred after Birmingham City opened the scoring in the game, and the club has reiterated their zero-tolerance approach to all forms of antisocial behaviour.

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Now Level Playing Field, which represents the interests of sports fans with disabilities, has joined the condemnation – and highlighted the particular problems such actions can have on disabled supporters.

Sunderland came from behind to beat Birmingham 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.Sunderland came from behind to beat Birmingham 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland came from behind to beat Birmingham 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.

Tony Taylor, chairman of Level Playing Field, said: “We have been disappointed by this weekend’s scenes and the direct impact on an area where disabled supporters were congregated.

“The use of smoke bombs and pyrotechnics has continued to be an issue this season, despite increased measures to prevent it.

“Fumes released by smoke bombs can impact respiratory conditions for some, and trigger panic attacks, seizures and sensory overload for others.

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“Access can also be impeded and create a dangerous situation for disabled supporters who may have difficulty evacuating the area, due to the impact that smoke bombs can have on their health.

“We therefore urge supporters, beyond the legal consequences, to consider the adverse impact their actions could have upon fellow supporters. Clubs must also place a great deal of importance on preventing these incidents and ensuring match days are safe for all.”

Mr Taylor said further education is required in this area and stressed Level Playing Field is keen to assist all parties with support and training.

Sunderland AFC’s club statement on the matter read: “Sunderland AFC condemns the unacceptable conduct of a small minority of away supporters during Saturday’s fixture at the Stadium of Light.

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“A pyrotechnic device was discharged in the North Stand Upper after Birmingham City opened the scoring in the 29th minute and it was subsequently thrown into the North Stand Lower.

“The individual responsible for this abhorrent act has been identified by CCTV and all relevant information has now been handed over to West Midlands Police, with club representatives continuing to directly support those impacted.

“Fans are reminded that it is a criminal offence to attempt to bring a pyrotechnic device into a football stadium, or to be in possession of a pyrotechnic device at a football match.

“All identified offenders will be reported to the police and prosecution could result in a permanent criminal record, which may affect employment and education status, and could result in a prison sentence.

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“SAFC has a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of anti-social behaviour and remains committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all at the Stadium of Light.”

Level Playing Field said it had contacted Birmingham City in relation to the incident and is awaiting a response.

Birmingham City issued a brief statement on social media during the half-time interval of the game, which said: "The club reiterates its zero-tolerance policy on pyrotechnics. In addition, anybody throwing missiles will be subject to disciplinary [action]."