A Manchester City fan has been fined and given a football ban order after he was caught launching a blue smoke rocket onto the pitch during last season’s frantic title decider at the Etihad Stadium . Phillip Maxwell, 29, launched the pyrotechnics over the fans’ heads towards the away supporters after Rodri scored a late equaliser.
The 78th-minute goal was part of a dramatic comeback for City who had lost two goals at home to Aston Villa and were in danger of losing the title to Liverpool. Kevin De Bruyne’s winner three minutes later handed the trophy to the Blues, prompting wild scenes and a pitch invasion after the final whistle.
A court heard Maxwell, a City fan from Liverpool, fire one of 20 flares launched by supporters during the match amid a disturbing increase in disorder at football matches last season. He is the second City fan to receive a football banning order following problems during the match.
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Prosecutor Shahid Khan told Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Thursday) that Maxwell launched the flare after ‘the home side’ equalized in a ‘Championship tie’. The pyrotechnic, which emitted blue smoke, “went through the heads of fans and stewards”, he said, adding that launching the missile “risked causing injury to fans and staff”.
Greater Manchester Police football hooligan ‘spotter’ PC Matthew Ford captured the incident with a hand-held camera, the court heard. The footage, which was shown in court, showed a close-up of Maxwell, wearing a white baseball cap, launching the flare towards a section of Aston Villa supporters.
The incident was a “deliberate egregious act” and posed a “clear risk of injury”, according to the prosecutor.
A statement from PC Ford, which was read out in court, said the reintroduction of fans to football matches following restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic had led to a “dramatic increase in violence and disorder” at matches. matches in the UK and across Europe. .
He also cited social media posts that appear to glorify violence in football and a “growing tendency” for fans to smuggle pyrotechnics into stadiums. The officer said there had been an 18.6 per cent increase in the number of times flares were set off on pitches during league games in England last season.
During Villa’s title-clinching match at the Etihad, around 20 smoking rockets were launched onto the playing area or towards opposing supporters, risking “animosity” between rival supporters, according to PC Ford.
Manchester City had tried to solve the problem by employing staff to deal with fans arriving on the pitch with flares which “can be bought fairly easily online”, he said.
The officer said fans who frequently bought them did not appreciate the danger of purchased flares and he referred to a 15-year-old supporter who had to be treated for ‘lung damage’ after inhaling smoke from a flare.
Chloe Gaffney, defending, said her client “had no intention” of firing the flare at Villa supporters, adding what he did was “an act of immaturity”. “He finds himself in court today having lost his good character,” she said.
Bench chairman Sohail Ahmad told the accused: “You lost your good character. You paid a big price for this stupid mistake you made.”
Maxwell was fined £1,440 and ordered to pay £55 for prosecution costs and a victim fine surcharge of £144. He also received a three-year football banning order, which prohibits him from attending games at the Etihad or any other league matches until June 23, 2025.
The accused, from Anzio Row in Knowsley, Liverpool, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to throwing a flare at or towards the playing area during a designated football match on May 22 . He also admitted a second charge of possession of a firework at a sports field. The court heard he had served in the army and earned £30,000 a year in his current job. He agreed to pay the fine at £100 per month.
Earlier this month, fellow City fan Paul Colbridge, 37, of Salford, received a four-year football banning order for invading the pitch during the match when the winning goal was scored. He ‘taunted’ opposition players and fans before slipping and falling and being caught by stewards.
The massive incursion onto the Etihad pitch was the culmination of a series of pitch invasions at games that week, including one in which Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp was hit in the head by a Nottingham Forest fan at the end of the second semi-final of the Sky Bet Championship play-offs. leg.
After Maxwell’s sentencing, Northwestern District Attorney Kerry Grieve said, “Maxwell’s actions were reckless and selfish. The flares create a safety hazard to players and spectators. On this occasion, fortunately no one was injured, but we have seen the aftermath of flares at football matches time and time again and we need to root out those who endanger the safety of others.
“The CPS is committed to taking a strong stance to tackle football-related disorder as we continue to play a crucial role in making sports such as football inclusive and safe to watch.”
Crown attorneys are working with football clubs, the Premier League and other football bodies to explain what evidence is needed to bring charges against supporters and in doing so protect players from future incidents.
Douglas Mackay, Chief Sporting Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, added: “Over the past few years and months there has been a significant increase in football-related crime compared to pre-pandemic levels. At the CPS, we play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national sport inclusive, safe to watch and play in. There is no place for violent crime in football, and incidents like these have a significant impact on the victims.
Flares may look harmless, but they contain toxic chemicals and can burn at 1,600 degrees Celsius, the melting point of steel. They are particularly dangerous for asthmatics. They have been linked to two deaths of young boys at football matches, one in Brazil and the other in Spain.