Football fans are in denial. Many have expressed the opinion that there are far more serious problems in the world to worry about than a few flares on the streets of a peaceful city.
Which is true, but does that mean no one should be concerned?
So-called "fans" let off between 15 and 30 flares in Melbourne on Tuesday night en route to the football friendly between the Socceroos and Greece. Police are reviewing CCTV footage and will decide whether to lay charges. Football Federation Australia has flagged five-year bans. TV footage made it look pretty scary out there.
Why are flares a problem? Because flares are explosives. On the Worksafe Victoria website, under the Health and Safety menu, it unambiguously says the following:
Explosives are used in mining and quarrying; trenching and sub-soiling; rock breaking and stump removal; ammunition and theatrical; and fireworks displays.
Examples include: fireworks, ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixes, blasting primers, detonators, smokeless powder, fuses, rail track signals, distress flares and safety cartridges.
A licence is required from WorkSafe before you can manufacture, store, sell, import, transport and use explosives. This includes discharging fireworks.
See the second point? Distress flares are classed as explosives. Repeat, flares are explosives, and are illegal to let off without a license -- in crowded city streets or anywhere else.
It's a serious issue when a mob lights explosives on city streets. Yet remarkably, some people are saying the reaction is overblown.
Approx 350 pedestrians are killed on the roads each year, 0 are killed by flares. Both are illegal, guess which one gets all the attention.— Rob (@RobskiNew) 8 de junho de 2016
The above tweet is disingenuous for the obvious reason that most pedestrians are killed by accident whereas the lighting of flares is a deliberate act. But it's representative of the flimsy argument that essentially goes: "Worse stuff happens in the world, so why cast football fans as villains?"
Adam Peacock is a top broadcaster and excellent bloke to boot. But he, too, fell into the trap of effectively saying "nothing to see here".
How good are we going if some flares (don't condone them) dominates news.— Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) 8 de junho de 2016
Society is flying as a whole.
The lucky country!!!
Peacock went on to point out that no one, as yet, has been arrested. Like that somehow made the scenes on the streets of Melbourne OK.
At least it was balanced reportage.— Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) 8 de junho de 2016
*read the fine print pic.twitter.com/NIv4BhUo1M
The football website Behind The Game describes itself as a "football culture website to tell the stories that exist within the beautiful game". It used its Twitter account to try to convince the world that this was no story at all.
It's not "violence" so nothing to see. Uh-huh. It wasn't a tsunami or a drought or an alien attack either, but did that make it less than scary? Or less than newsworthy?
Jorge Menides, from Melbourne's Greek Centre, told the ABC the "hysteria" had been blown out of proportion.
"It's disappointing a few people have done the wrong thing but I think there is also almost a hysteria when it comes to flares and football games," he said. "I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that people should be lighting them. I do feel that the Australian media in particular tends to obsess about them at a level that's just unwarranted, quite frankly."
Some people closely connected to the game admit there's a problem with flares. The Australian's highly respected football journalist Ray Gatt said this:
Point about flares. It's illegal to set them off in a public place. If I walked down George Street and lit flares I'd be arrested. What 1/2— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) 8 de junho de 2016
And just to clarify, I will always try to defend my sport to the hilt. It is my passion, but I have been anti flares for years.— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) 8 de junho de 2016
HuffPost Australia editor-at-large Lisa Wilkinson weighed in.
If ur referring to those idiots using flares at the soccer @scoresomegoals, I said "that doesn't look like Australia". And I dont apologise.— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) 7 de junho de 2016
Others suggested we should all go home and forget about it.
A lot of hand-wringing over a few flares. Get over it.— Ben Cubby (@bencubby) June 8, 2016