Pubs could close if football supporters are allowed to drink during matches, says pub association

Pubs could close if football supporters are allowed to drink during matches, says pub association

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Great British Beer and Pub Association has told talkRADIO pubs outside football stadiums could close if supporters are allowed to drink during matches.

Its warning comes after nine football clubs called for a 1985 law to be overturned so it is no longer illegal to drink whilst "directly viewing" the match.

GBBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds told talkRADIO: "The great British pub is the place where traditionally people drink before and after games. I wouldn't want their viability to be undermined by allowing people to drink in the stands."

Supporters of rugby and cricket are permitted to drink in their seats, prompting claims the law is 'unfair' on football fans.


'Of course we should be allowed to drink at football'

MP Robert Halfon supports a change in the law to allow fans to drink at football matches. Image: Getty

Conservative MP Robert Halfon has backed calls for a law-change. He told talkRADIO: "Of course we should be able to have a drink at football. The only thing I would say is that they have to be really tough in cracking down on people who get drunk and are abusive because that was the problem in the past."

The 1985 law was introduced by the Thatcher government as hooliganism dominated debates around British football.

Football Supporters Federation Caseworker, Amanda Jacks, said: "When the laws were drafted they were a knee-jerk reaction to problems at the time. Nobody thought them through properly and certainly didn't foresee that in 2018 we would be talking about football fans being singled out from the rest of society." 


Non-drinking law 'necessary and appropriate'

For years the conversation around alcohol included references to the Hillsborough disaster, after which police had blamed Liverpool supporters - and their consumption of alcohol - for the crush that killed 96 people.

But in 2012 the Hillsborough Independent Panel report exposed the truth: fans had been framed and alcohol played no part in the tragedy.    

However, a Home Office spokesperson told talkRADIO football still has "unique public order risks", going on to say "many incidents of football-related disorder are spontaneous, involving offenders who have consumed alcohol, often to excess."  

They added: “We are satisfied that existing legislation is necessary and appropriate.”   

The fact rugby is untouched by the 1985 legislation means when rugby is played in a football stadium supporters can drink in their seats, but when football is played in a football stadium they cannot.


'A blanket ban is disproportionate'

Head of Stadium Operations at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium, Marie Hepburn, told talkRADIO: "Football has changed significantly since 1985. We don't see alcohol causing the level of problems that it used to. A blanket ban is disproportionate to the level of risk that we are now facing."

A parallel is drawn to the Licensing Act 2003, which extended pub opening times but did not cause an increase in alcohol-related crime.

Clubs believe preventing supporters from drinking in their seats causes many to consume alcohol at a quicker rate before kick off and at half time.  

If the law regarding alcohol was changed clubs would still have the power to refuse entry to, or eject, someone who was drunk.  

In Scotland there is a total ban on consuming alcohol within a football stadium due to a 1980 law brought in after violence at the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers.

James Kelly MSP told talkRADIO: “I was actually at that game and I remember the trouble. I know the amount of alcohol contributed to it so I can understand why the alcohol ban was introduced.”

There was a mixed reaction when the Scottish Labour party proposed overturning the legislation in the run up to the 2015 General Election.  

Alcohol consumption across the UK has fallen 18% since 2004.