Calls to lift ban on alcohol at Scottish football matches

man drinking pint Fans in Scotland can only buy alcohol in hospitality or corporate areas

Fresh calls have been made for the ban on the sale of alcohol at Scottish football matches to be lifted.

Strict controls were introduced in 1980 after violent clashes during the Scottish Cup final at Hampden.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has said the club would like to be able to sell alcohol to fans in a controlled environment.

Start Quote

I think responsible drinking is perfectly possible at football stadiums”

End Quote Archie Macpherson Broadcaster

However, supporters of the ban say a reintroduction would create problems for police and stewards.

The Scottish government said the issue of alcohol at games was one of a range of things it may consider as part of wider work - with the police and football authorities - to explore how to improve the sporting experience for fans.

The general sale of alcohol was banned at stadiums in the aftermath of the 1980 Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers, which saw rival fans battling on the field and police on horseback attempting to defuse the trouble.

It was largely attributed to the volume of alcohol consumed by spectators.

Broadcaster Archie Macpherson, who commentated on the match, told BBC Scotland he thought it was time to bring back alcohol.

He said: "I think we have matured greatly since those days.

"That was a stunning scene. It was a seminal moment and nobody complained about the new laws that came in after that because things were so bad.

"But I think it went too far. If you add all the legislation together about attending a football match, including the recent anti-sectarian ones, I think football fans are being treated like cattle."

The commentator added: "I think responsible drinking is perfectly possible at football stadiums. People have become much more responsible. Stadia are much better equipped to deal with these things. I think attitudes have changed."

'Bevvy' call

However, the former head of the Scottish Police Federation, Les Gray, said the idea of having alcohol on general sale in stadiums "beggars belief".

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Call Kaye programme, he said: "I am one of the old guys who was actually around in 1980 when the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act was introduced to football.

"Everybody just keeps blaming this one game but it was a whole host of events that brought about that ban.

"We used to stand at the football and get pelted with cans and bottles, which weren't full of their original content, and it was an absolute nightmare."

Hampden Stadium Legislation banning the general sale of alcohol at football matches was introduced in 1980

Mr Gray said the controls on the sale of alcohol during games had helped improve the standard at Scottish football "beyond recognition".

The ban on alcohol does not apply for events such as concerts when they are held at football grounds. American football, rugby league matches and rugby union club matches are also exempt from controls.

In 2007 the Scottish government lifted the ban for international rugby matches at Murrayfield Stadium, allowing fans to drink alcohol while watching games.

Mr Gray said: "The atmosphere and the attitude at rugby and ice-hockey are completely different to the football atmosphere."

He said talk of "bringing back the bevvy" was an example of football fans' attitudes to alcohol. "Some people just can't get enough," he added.

In Scotland, alcohol can only be sold to fans in hospitality and corporate areas during football matches.

In England, football fans can buy a drink on the concourses at designated times during and after games, but are not allowed to take alcohol back to their seats.

'Enjoyable environment'

Dev McDonald, from the Scottish football supporters' website Pie and Bovril, said he would like to see a similar model introduced north of the border.

"We are talking about controlled, responsible drinking," he said.

"People who watch football come from every spectrum of society, and they are no different to the people who go and support rugby or ice hockey. You can't treat them any different.

"It is demeaning to actually say that football fans can't be trusted to have a drink."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring that football fans can enjoy our national sport in a safe, enjoyable environment.

"Decisions are informed by advice from the police, and we are actively working with football authorities, the police and fans' representatives to explore how we can both improve safety and the enjoyment of sporting experience for fans."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    As much as I would like to see it, if only because it would help raise much-needed revenue for clubs, I don't think its a good idea at all. People in this country do not have a healthy attitude to drinking (myself included). We haven't changed significantly from the 80's in that respect. And once the Old Firm games are back it would be mayhem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Congrats for the most stupid idea of the day. Yeh giving booze to fans is really going to help the game be less violent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    It would appear that the only argument for lifting the ban is to allow clubs to squeeze yet more money from football fans.

    I regularly attend games and neither I nor the fans around me find ourselves gagging for a drink. It's no longer part of the fans' ritual and there's plenty opportunity before or after the game for a pint. Bovril and a pie suits me fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Alcohol is allowed at Rugby, however, I have seen a number of incidents at matches that suggest that removing alcohol from all sports grounds is the way to go. The reality is where you have groups of people drinking together then there is always the potential to go out of control. Re-instating drinking in football grounds is the worst idea in a long time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Just when you thought Scottish football's troubles couldn't get any worse....

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    "I think football fans are being treated like cattle." That's pretty much what they are.

    "It is demeaning to actually say that football fans can't be trusted to have a drink." They can't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Given that the only way to stamp out sectarianism looks like some sort of sponsored silence, I don't see that adding alcohol to the mix would be a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    of course you can drink inside many football grounds pre match and after,the judgement is that people in the "cheap seats" should not be allowed!! the worst violence I ever witnessed was at a police function, so lets ban these as well, in fact lets just ban drink at every entertainment venue!! no what we do is punish offenders ruthlessly auto jail sentence,and fast, the penny would drop

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Archie Macpherson says "I think we have matured greatly since those days."

    Unfortunately it will still be a small minority of fans that will ruin it for the rest of us.

    I'm not one for locking everyone up to make sure we punish the criminals, but surely everyone who likes a beer can go for 2 hours without one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    It's insulting to football fans in Scotland that alcohol is not allowed to be consumed before or at 1/2 time; peoples attitudes to alcohol has changed over the years and its about time football fans are allowed the same privilege as other sporting fans across the country.

    Here's an idea if it doesnt work then stop it - if does let it carry on; people need to stop living in the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    No way should the ban be lifted as there are still too many butters about.
    If people want to drink, go to the pub,if they can't do without drink for 90 minutes they have a problem.
    I appreciate that clubs are trying to raise revenue from any source possible but this would be a step too far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @1 of the side effects of minimum pricing is that it will make pub prices less expensive in relation to supermarket prices

    at my team Dumbarton FC, we have a club in the stadium, where we can buy a beer right up till kick off......never seen any problems with people being out their faces

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Why do they keeping asking Les Gray for comments? The guy lives in the past. What's the problem with fans turning up 30 mins before kick-off and having a pint in a plastic cup in the concourse before the game?

    I don't think anybody at this point is advocating drinking for 90 mins. I was at a game down south last season and we had a drink at half-time. Why should Scotland be treated any different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Just what we need as football related violence is starting to increase again. Is there no depths that the football authorities will not descend to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    This is a desperate attempt by the clubs to raise income. ON NO ACCOUNT should sales of alcohol be introduced inside stadiums. There is already a big enough problem with alcohol in Scotland. Until root causes of that are addressed any restrictions need to remain. Football needs to attract families to change the games image.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    What's alcohol got to do with enjoying football? Surely the quality of the game can't be that bad that the fans need a drink to get them through 90 minutes. There is absolutely no need to remove the alcohol ban, it's only 90 minutes of a fan's life that they need go with out drink that is not a hardship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Big mistake - the problem is not the fan with brains, but that dangerous minority that spoil things for everyone else. Elimination of drink in the grounds stopped trouble, and other than creating another earning possibility for the shareholders, it isn't worth the risk.
    In a few years, the Old Firm matches will probably be back - does it require people to be hurt before common sense is applied

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Keep the ban!

    In any case, drink impairs concentration, so why pay money to see a match you cannot really follow?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Hats off to the Beeb. You won't allow comment or discussion on the biggest political event to affect us in generations but you will allow us to debate whether football fans can have a drink?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Yes I'm all for lifting the booze ban but at the same time banning football.


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