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Young fan to meet Walsall defender after being turned down for 'fire-risk flag'

By Tom Oakley | Walsall | News | Published:

A young Saddlers fan who was told he couldn’t take his flag into an away game as it was a fire hazard has been cheered up after Walsall ace Nicky Devlin promised to meet up with him.

Charlie Pritchard was refused entry for not having a fire safety certificate for his flag

Charlie Pritchard and his parents travelled the 90 miles from their home in Great Barr to Oakwell for the game with Barnsley on Saturday.

And the proud eight-year-old was hoping to get his picture taken with his new Saddlers flag inside the ground and out.

But when he and his parents Nick and Steph tried to enter the turnstiles, they were asked to display a fire safety certificate if they wanted to go inside.

Father Nick was left bewildered having never experienced anything like it before – and was forced to take the flag back to the car before being granted entry.

Walsall defender Nicky Devlin

The 36-year-old said: “It was the first time we’d used it. Charlie wanted to get his photo taken with it at every away game.

“We took a picture outside and then as we were walking to the turnstiles they said if he hasn’t got a fire safety certificate we couldn’t go in.

“I questioned him as to why, and he said it’s because a lot of the old stands are made of wood and can easily catch fire.

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“I said the flag's not going to start a fire – it’s no different to the clothes we’re wearing, anything can be flammable.

“What was bizarre was in the Walsall end there were people with vapes and battery packs charging phones. I didn’t see any flags in the away end at all.”

Despite the disappointment Charlie was cheered up a little when Andy Cook hit back for Saddlers just before full-time to make it 1-1 and salvage a point.

And now he is all smiles after defender Nicky Devlin, who heard about the news on social media, promised to meet up with him before Walsall’s next home game with Doncaster on Saturday.

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Mr Pritchard added: “Nicky Devlin has offered to meet us outside the game and meet my son Charlie and get us some signed goodies.”

A spokesman for Barnsley FC said the club "share the same message regarding fire safety certificates" as Walsall FC and added:"We would firstly like to apologise to eight-year-old Charlie Pritchard if any of his experience of the match at Oakwell was a negative one.

"Charlie was not denied entry to the ground, but his flag was.

"We fully understand that the rules can be frustrating for many, but they are rules that we all follow and implement, for both home and away supporters.

"The rules regarding flags have been long-standing and are imperative towards the safety procedures at Oakwell, as well as every other EFL ground."

The rules at Oakwell are:

  • Both home and away fans can bring flags.
  • Any banner or flag over 1m x 1.5m must be accompanied with a current fire certificate, not a photocopy. It can only be placed over empty seats or a void area, in conjunction with stewards. Poles are not allowed unless with prior arrangement. Some small hand held flags may be allowed.
  • It is always advisable to contact the club (slo@barnsleyfc.co.uk) prior to any game regarding flags and banners, to avoid confusion. Any flags or banners not pre advised may be confiscated and returned after the game.
  • Only banners which show support of the team are allowed. Any other wording must be agreed by the club in advance of the game.
Tom Oakley

By Tom Oakley
Trainee Multi-Media Journalist

Express & Star reporter responsible for covering Walsall and Staffordshire. Got a story? Email tom.oakley@expressandstar.co.uk or call 01902 319482.

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