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 177.

    Perhaps those going around giving negative ratings for reasonable posts supporting this move could explain why something that works perfectly well in England would not work in Scotland? Too much knee jerk nonsense from people who frankly do not understand what is being proposed. No fan will be watching football with beer in hand, that does not happen in England and would not happen here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I have experienced English football as an ST holder at a Premiership club and there is absolutely no valid reason why the same controlled sale of alcohol cannot be implemented in Scotland, none at all [I never witnessed one alcohol related problem due to the sale of alcohol inside the stadiums in those 10 years]. It is frankly insulting that anyone can suggest otherwise. Les Gray? out of touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.


    If the police had there way all supporters would view the game from inside their locked homes while the officers held the keys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    You say it will be highly policed. Isn't that the issue? Football games should not need to be highly policed and should be a safe and happy enviroment where I can take my family to enjoy a game.

    Worst idea ever bringing back alcohol to the game!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Some of us like to watch a game of football with a couple of beers just as I do while attending other sports.

    The people that are going to cause the trouble are already downing 3 quick pints before the game, probably becoming more intoxicated than if they could drink throughout the game, before making up for lost time with another 3 pints afterwards.

    Too many knee jerk reactions here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Re: my own comment at 169: I meant sad for football, of course, not rugby!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    We shouldn't allow drinking in places where kids are likely to be, football's bad enough without it. I don't understand why it's allowed at rugby games either, fans of that particular "sport" aren't the best adverts for responsible drinking either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    "Calls"???/ Its CELTIC who are calling for drinking at Parkhead; they have just lost £4m in season ticket income and aboyt 10,000 fans at games...its CELTIC who want this; its Celtic fans who boozed up, rioted in Dundee and at Dens Park THIS SEASON.
    Where is the critical commentary on this nonsense? Nowhere with a BBC afraid to write the word Celtic in any non positive manner.Shocking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @164 Ayreshire SPL Winners 2012

    I was talking from experience. I've been to hundreds of football matches and witnessed the hostility. I've also been to hundreds of rugby matches where there was no need for segregation: the rugby fans seemed to have no difficulty celebrating a score, even when standing next to opposition supporters, and they did it without any atmosphere of threat. Sad but true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    No, No, No, a thousand times no. Football fans are bad enough withouy drink being available

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    ridiculous idea

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    who has the stake in the brewery then, I am sure fans get ripped off enought without paying over the top prices for warm beer in plastic containers....alcohol and "FOOTBALL" supporters dont mix

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Clubs could badly do with some extra revenue right now, of that there is no doubt. The thing is though that fans pay through the nose for the football as it is; I don't imagine a pint of lager at a football match will come cheap. And besides, surely football clubs should be promoting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging people to drink less? Our notorious booze culture causes us no end of grief...

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    @ brethilfaer yea lets mix with the opposition fans so we can't celebrate our goals properly makes huge sense as theres always someone who will take exception to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    @149 When was the last time you saw rugby or darts fans rioting? I cant think of a single time this has happened.

    Are you serious? Have you ever been to the darts at the SECC? The players regularly get things thrown at them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Let's face it, football fans are segregated at matches even without alcohol on sale, and with good reason. If they reintroduce alcohol they make it less family-friendly at a stroke. As someone else has said, when they can safely do away with segregation, THEN they can consider alcohol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    "I think we have matured greatly since those days."

    Yes... though thing about alcohol is it turns people into drunken thugs with the maturity of a toddler

    really stupid idea

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    @ Gina Burton how about look at it the other way and thats people that don't often drink wanting one during the game. Football hate tinted glass's like so many on here and most I'll be have never been to a game. Ive been to 200+ games and never saw any violence drinking should be available at certain category games after all pittodrie has a zero police presence for some games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I would have assumed that they would only sell beer, maybe cider too at a push. Theres no way that they would start selling cans that would be irresponsible of them. The prices will be abit more expensive than a pub so people wont be up at the bar for 90 minutes. It wont sort out the financial problems of scottish football but its a start. Some common sense applied and it will definitely work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    How about a compromise and have some "No alcohol" sections of grounds, like thay have at the cricket?


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