Proposals to let fans drink alcohol in stands should be given bum’s rush

After seeing trouble flare up at the Euro 2020 Final, Laura Lawrence questions whether it’s the brightest idea to end the 36-year booze ban…

In the mid-90s, I went to a Paul Weller concert at the now-defunct Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield. It was an all-day event with support acts including Skunk Anansie, David Byrne, Travis, The Supernaturals, and Beth Orton. Unfortunately, when Beth stepped on the stage so did the filled-up plastic pint pots of urine, launched by people who’d been drinking foamy, expensive lager for most of the day.

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Most of the pints didn’t reach the stage but it did cover those in the first few rows. Minor scuffles ensued. It’s a memory that endures as much for the smell as the scene.

So, when Tracey Crouch, former Sports Minister, announced this week that as part of the fan-led review there would be a pilot to reintroduce alcohol back into the stands, there was divided opinion on whether it is the right thing to do.

What we have to think is, WWMWFUHRD? (What Would Man With Flare Up His Rectum Do?)

The superficial evidence doesn’t strongly support continuing the binge. You only have to remember the Euro 2020 Final. UEFA announced this week that they are issuing full ticket refunds to some supporters because of the drunken behaviour of England fans at Wembley – that’s £810 in some cases.

The argument to bring alcohol back into the stands is twofold. Firstly, the view is that football clubs need to generate income and that limiting the amount of time refreshments are for sale is detrimental to clubs.

Dulwich Hamlet is cited as an example. The club has told the fan-led review team that they can’t afford to get promoted because the majority of “its revenue is generated through its refreshments”. Promotion into the National League Premier would mean they’d have to adhere to rules where drinking in sight of the pitch is banned and has been since 1985.

I can see the short-term argument for lifting this ban for non-league teams, but if clubs are having to rely on the amount of Carling they sell per game, shouldn’t the governing bodies be looking at better avenues than this?

The second argument is for health reasons. “We kettle people into drinking quickly at half-time. And that is the unhealthy aspect of the football fan’s relationship with alcohol. They drink a lot in a short space of time,” Crouch said about the situation.

Would adding 90 minutes of extra drinking time alleviate this? I’m sceptical. Binging before the match is already an accepted part of matchdays. I suspect that more alcohol will be consumed, not less. The health benefits of extending the session doesn’t seem to add up – even if the additional revenue does.

What I do know is it will increase the amount of times you have to stand up and sit down because the regular offenders need to go and expel those extra pints.

The review hopes the data will put the issue to bed, but with the pilot only focusing on non-league and League Two games for now, the data will be skewed. In my experience non-league games are less of a pressure pot than league matches. I’m trying to imagine fans at Cardiff City v Swansea City armed with beverages when a decision doesn’t go their way in a derby game. Potential Beth Orton territory for players and referees.

With the UK’s football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, calling the move “irresponsible” even before the pilot begins, you have to ask yourself whether adding more alcohol into the situation is the brightest idea.

Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR

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