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Is It Time To Bring Alcohol Back Into Scottish Football?

Date: 30th November 2016

Written by Thomas Duncan (@thomasduncan94) and as featured on Auchterarder Chippy


The tale of how Scottish football terraces came to be alcohol free is an infamous one. It would be rare to find any fan of football in this country who has not seen the footage of brutal violence that marred the 1980 Scottish Cup final, and led to a ban on alcohol in stadia across the nation.

And since the 2016 edition of the Scottish Cup final also saw fans cascading onto the pitch at full time, one could be forgiven for thinking that any argument for reintroducing the sale of booze at the football is downright irresponsible.

However, that would be to misunderstand the changed nature and behaviour of football fans over the decades. Indeed, the report commissioned by the SFA into the pitch invasion in May categorically stated that drunkenness was not to blame.

Author, Edward Bowen QC wrote: ‘Whilst there is evidence that some supporters, male and female, were affected by the consumption of alcohol, I do not conclude that alcohol played a significant part in causing the invasion.’

What backers of the ban fail to realise- or perhaps they do- is that their stance is simply a way of telling football fans that they cannot be trusted to behave themselves.

This, when compared to the treatment of other sections of society, becomes almost an insult. T in the Park has seen multiple deaths since its creation, yet every year thousands of youngsters turn up with the sole purpose of getting hammered and enjoying their favourite artists, whilst rammed up against others in the same state.

Fans in England, Germany and Holland can all enjoy a cold pint at games despite having far worse records than Scotland when it comes to hooliganism.

Nobody is naive enough to deny that some football fans, like in any walk of life, simply cannot be trusted with booze. But the solution is not to ban it altogether, but to regulate its sale.

A popular system operated in England and across Europe is to categorise games based on the risk of trouble assessed by police and the footballing authorities. The higher up the risk scale a game is, the more severe are the restrictions placed on the sale of drinks. This can vary from the time frame when it can be sold, right up to a total ban.

Thus, a Celtic v Rangers game could warrant a total ban, whilst Hearts v Hibs may require a smaller window of sale, and Morton v Ayr United could have little or no restrictions.

Moreover, further laws could be enacted. For example, a strict liability rule could operate whereby poor fan behaviour leads to their club being prevented from providing booze. This in turn could encourage self-policing by fans who do not want to miss out on their match day beer; and policing by clubs themselves desperate not to miss out on a key revenue stream.

Indeed money is another key benefit of lifting the ban. Whilst clubs in England do not rely on fans’ fondness of a beer thanks to their mammoth TV deal, the situation in Scotland is vastly different.

Many clubs are staring at a reduction in revenue and shrinking attendances. As a result they have to walk a fine line between high ticket prices, and maintaining support. Allowing them to sell alcohol would not only increase the money coming in from regular fans, but also bring many back through the turnstiles.

The reason for this is that people are crying out for a better match day experience. Currently, if you go to a game in Scotland you are likely to turn up right on the whistle, and leave immediately after full time.

If fans were allowed to congregate for a drink pre and post-match it would enhance the atmosphere and the sense of community that many clubs have lost. It is not unreasonable to assume that fans would much rather give their money to their football club for a beer, than anywhere else.

This was illustrated perfectly by Borussia Mönchengladbach before their Champions League tie with Celtic earlier this month, when they posted a picture of fans enjoying a lager at their purpose built beer garden outside the stadium prior to kick off.

Gladbach tweet fans enjoying a pre match pint

Gladbach fans enjoying a pre match pint

Contrast that with Celtic’s fixture against Aberdeen a few days earlier, when police tweeted a picture of two officers standing gleefully next to an array of alcohol they had confiscated from fans en route to Pittodrie.

Attitudes like this need to change. It is ludicrous to suggest that the majority of fans in this day and age cannot control themselves after a few drinks.

And that is the vital point, it will only be a few drinks. The idea is not that football stadiums become pubs, but merely that they can offer people a drink for a limited time under certain conditions. Surely, this is not too much to ask.

Football fans of today should not be tarred with the bloody brush from the 80s, it’s time to bring back alcohol to Scottish grounds.

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