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The Photonics Spotlight

Laser Pointers in Soccer Games: Not Necessarily Harmless

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Ref.: encyclopedia articles on laser pointers, laser safety; Spotlight article of 2006-12-16; German article in Welt Online Sport

It has now happened several times that soccer fans used green laser pointers for the purpose of irritating players. This behavior appears to be most popular among Greek fans, but was also noticed e.g. in Austria. In last October, I was interviewed by a Swiss private television channel, asking about the risk for human eyes, after the Swiss player Alex Frei had been targeted. I just learned that several similar laser attacks were launched recently in various games.

In my view, the safety hazards are not properly commented by some experts. For example, I read a (possibly not exact) quote from some expert, essentially saying that such laser pointers are not dangerous for the eyes as they have to stay below certain power levels. That may be true for most laser pointers, but it is easy to buy some which emit at by far higher power levels, while not being larger than the legal ones, or easily distinguishable in other ways. I discussed this in an earlier Spotlight article. There appears to be a fair chance that such hazardous devices are used for that purpose, as they can obviously have a greater effect. Therefore, I consider it quite inappropriate to call such behavior harmless, not knowing whether or not those laser types are used which are compliant with laser safety regulations.

In any case, it is of course highly stupid of fans to use lasers in such ways. Not only is it potentially unsafe and certainly unfair to irritate players. Fans may even invalidate a goal of their own team if the traces of their behavior are recorded by television cameras. It is also questionable whether interruptions of games are more exciting than the regular course. Some fans, however, appear not to be susceptible to any rational reasoning.

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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