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 57.

    I can remember being at matches where alcohol loosened tongues and fists - not a pleasant experience!! Cans were used as toilets and then were chucked over the heads of the fans at the front. A very unpleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.


  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Just now

    Not overly fussed with the idea. Not just with the consumption in the stadium but it'll cost a small fortune if it happened, £5 a pint minimum.

    What do you base this on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Not overly fussed with the idea. Not just with the consumption in the stadium but it'll cost a small fortune if it happened, £5 a pint minimum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    If you want to watch the match go and watch it; if you want a drink go to the pub.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Why not "Re-Allow" People to take their own drink into stadiums / drinking in the street on the way to and from the game and P**ing in people's gardens while we are at it? Let's turn back time folks. Any one for smoking in pubs, beating up spouses and being openly bigoted and racist with impunity. - It's demeaning to actually say that people can't be trusted surely?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Iinto this heady mix lets add more alcohol! Would raise revenue but booze creates more problems. Scots have more drink problems than anywhere else in Western Europe. I could understand wanting to sell spliff but not more mad juice.

    'controlled, responsible drinking'?

    My god the man must live on another planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Isn't it about time we tried to trust people to drink responsibly and to promote that, rather than banning alcohol everywhere and anywhere. This'll bring more people into the ground and will put more money into clubs. Good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I have been to football. Some of the are already drunk when allowed in to the ground. If these people are that desperate for a drink during the duration of a football match, then they need treatment for their alcohol problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Why are some people against the reintroduction of alcohol at games in a controlled manner referring to the cans and bottle throwing from the late 70s early 80s as a reason not to ? That could happen just now as you wouldn't be served alcohol in bottles/cans or be allowed to the seats/terraces with the alcohol anyway, therefore theres as much chance of that now as after any reintroduction!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Selling drink to the Celtic supporters. Mr Lawell should remember the danger of selling firewater to the Indians. Some things are too dangerous to be considered purely in terms of profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Why not introduce the sale of low alcohol or mid-strength beer only?

    This is how it's done in large stadiums in Australia (i.e. the Etihad stadium in Melbourne). It allows people to enjoy a beer, clubs make money from the sale and excessive consumption of alcohol isn't as much of an issue. Job done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    #40 quote "There is no reasonble justification for not bringing the bevy back" bevy? I think you just made the justification.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    RE The comments about "The Old Firm".

    There will not be an "Old Firm" game ever again, however if Celtic were to play "Rangers MMXII" it would not be for 2/3 years...... if they still exist then of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Every generation or so the wheel is re-invented. According to some reporter 'the time has come' to allow alcohol ,etc. The 'experts' decided that Bankers did not need the controls imposed after the 1930's crash. The experts removed the Riot Act in the late 60's as no longer needed..
    WE have not progressed, the original reasons for the ban have not changed,

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    The drinking ban has moved people away from the stadiums to drink else where. This has been good for local pubs, but it can cause problems with the policing of a wider area etc. On the other hand drinking at the stadium will encourage fans to turn up in plenty of time and also raise revenues for cash stared clubs!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.


  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    It is about time football supporters were treated as equals in society. If alcohol can be consumed at rugby, golf, darts, concerts, festivals, cinemas and the theatre, then is there any reason why it should not be allowed at the football?

    It has proven to be a success in England (which suffered form violence in the 80s). There is no reasonble justification for not bringing the bevy back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    So the best supporter of this that the BBC could find is a retired football commentator?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Some people have very short memories!

    A quick pint before the game - indeed!

    Being able to drink at game would merely be topping up what people have had already. In the case of some, buckie, cheap wine and spirits or combination.

    Remember the scenes from Manchester 2008!

    C McK


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