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Campaign to loosen football booze laws launched

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

Football industry magazine FC Business has launched a new campaign to scrap the laws which currently make it illegal to consume alcohol within sight of the pitch. FC Business says it intends to lobby for the support of all league Chairmen, Chief Executives, and Stadium Safety Managers, to change laws which discriminate against football fans.

It is currently against the law to consume alcohol within view of the pitch and the law covers “all designated sports grounds”. However, it is not applied to any other games or events, including both rugby codes, cricket and music concerts, even when they take place in football stadiums.

FC Business argues that this is discriminatory against football fans and this argument is in line with Football Supporters’ Federation policy. The FSF believes that all discriminatory laws which apply to football fans, and no other group in society, should be changed. As well as improving the “match day experience” FC Business claims the majority of clubs believe the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985 should be reviewed, or even scrapped, to allow increased revenue.

Ryan McKnight, Editor of FC Business, said: “On one hand we are saying football clubs must be solvent and profitable and on the other hand there is discriminative legislation preventing further revenue growth in this area. The law needs to be reviewed – we believe the issue should be discussed in public in an open and honest manner. Football fans are being discriminated against.”
 
“Football clubs now, more than ever, need to be able to generate extra revenue. Allowing fans the opportunity to take their drinks back to their seats will ease concourse congestion allowing more fans to purchase drinks and food helping to increase revenue as well as promoting a more sensible approach to drinking.”
 
The campaign’s initial objectives are to open up the debate on alcohol consumption at games which they hope will lead to a full risk analysis. Should this risk assessment prove acceptable to the authorities FC Business hopes that the current legislation would be amended to bring football into line with other sports.

This would prove a win-win for both clubs and fans as a loosening of the law would increase clubs’ potential profit from alcohol sales while ending discrimination against football fans. Football clubs’ commercial departments might also offer a warm welcome to any changes as, at present, the law prevents VIP guests enjoying the same hospitality that they might enjoy at other sports.

If they wish to sip champagne while play continues a curtain has to be drawn across the VIP box’s window so they are not consuming within sight of the pitch. Of course a change in the legislation would also allow ‘normal’ fans to sup a pint on the terraces too as supporters in other countries such as Germany can.

Speaking to FC Business FSF Chair Malcolm Clarke backed the proposed law change and argued it would also help ease crowd congestion: “This legislation is outdated. What does it achieve? What happens inside grounds is that because it is a criminal offence to consume alcohol within sight of the pitch, there are often last-minute rushes into stands from the concourse at the start of games, as fans charge in from the pub, rather than them coming in an orderly fashion.

“From a crowd management point of view it is not sensible, in fact it is stupid and counter-productive. Football fans are being discriminated against and the law is disproportionate. In rugby it is OK to drink in your seats, often in the very same seats as football fans are not allowed to drink in. It is absurd.

“It is also an offence to drink on official coaches and mini-buses going to football, but not in rugby or cricket. It should be left to the coach trip parties to decide. There has been no proper risk analysis for what this Act achieves and whether it is necessary. The law is an ass and should be abolished. It is a crude way to tackle the issue and serves no purpose. It doesn’t reduce drinking; it just means fans drink in a shorter time. It has nothing going for it.”

FC Business argues that now is the time to acknowledge the game’s changing demographic and “considerable progress” in tackling past demons. Over the coming months, F.C. Business will be promoting the campaign which will take in the views of the clubs, the police and stadium safety officers, football fans, and the drinks industry.

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