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Alcohol restrictions: football fans must be seen as equals

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Football fans are used to facing severe restrictions around drinking at the match – something fans of no other sport have to deal with. FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks looks at the issue… 

For many supporters, having a pre and post-match drink is an integral part of going to football.  For advertisers, retailers and sponsors, the relationship between fans and alcohol is a match made in heaven, indeed, the FA Cup was sponsored by Budweiser from 2011 until 2014.  

Of course the same applies to other sports too, commentators pass fond, amused comment at the sight of crickets’ Barmy Army and their beer snakes; the drinking culture associated with Rugby Union is deemed more or less harmless – nice middle class boys and their jolly japes and rousing songs. 

But it’s only football that has specific alcohol related legislation as you will see from the table below and the time is right to ask what this legislation actually achieves beyond criminalising fans.

AJ FSF Specfic football Offences

There is absolutely no evidence or research to suggest that these laws have any bearing whatsoever on preventing or curtailing football related disorder in and around our stadiums.

Academic research that has found that alcohol restrictions can often cause more problems than they are supposed to prevent.  On the Lash by Geoff Pearson and Arianna Sale concludes that alcohol controls need to be revisited and other methods looked at to reduce the problem of football disorder.

On occasion train companies will ban alcohol on trains carrying predominantly football supporters.  If you are found in breach of that ban you run the risk of arrest.

Not content with relying on it being illegal to drink on a minibus or coach, the Traffic Commissioner guidelines say that if you want to have a drink at a pub on your way to a game, you must notify the police of this and only drink alcohol if it accompanies a substantial meal! I mean, when else can you be patronised into the middle of next season unless you’re a football fan?

Last season, nearly 450 supporters were arrested for alcohol related offences. We don’t know how many of these led to conviction but we do know that convicted fans also run the risk of being issued with a  Football Banning Order. would

Police already have powers at their disposal to deal with alcohol misuse – such as drink driving, or being drunk and disorderly – so don’t need to rely on football-specific alcohol laws.

We are of course, the Football Supporters’ Federation and not the Police Federation but when it’s well known the police (indeed the entire criminal justice system) are struggling under Governmental cuts, it really is frightening to think of the man hours taken up in processing these arrested fans and, of course, the cost to the taxpayer. 

Surely these police man hours would be better spent doing something else, dare I suggest catching real criminals and not dealing with people criminalised ‘just because’ they’re following football and not rugby, cricket, horse racing or on a stag/hen weekend, attending a concert etc.

If people drink to excess or are disorderly at any of these events, they can still be ejected by stewards and the police can still arrest them under various other laws.  The playing field needs to be levelled and it’s time to abolish alcohol-related legislation specific to football and for the games’ fans to be viewed, through the eyes of the law, as equal to supporters of other sports and leisure activities.

Watching Football Is Not A Crime! is part of the FSF’s ongoing drive to monitor the police in their dealings with football fans and work with them to ensure that all fans are treated fairly and within the law. You can contact FSF Caseworker Amanda Jacks via:

Thanks to Action Images for the picture used in this blog.

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