Jim Murphy: Allow drinking at football matches

"It's about improving the experience of the supporter" - Murphy. Picture: John Devlin

"It's about improving the experience of the supporter" - Murphy. Picture: John Devlin

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SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy yesterday said he was in favour in lifting the alcohol ban at football matches.

Murphy said the ban could be overturned on a trial basis when he was asked about it on Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball programme with Stuart Cosgrove and Tam Cowan.

“I don’t drink but I’m up for it. I think it is sensible,” said the politician, who suggested it was unfair that “middle class” people who went to hospitality suites could drink, but ordinary fans could not.

“Our sport in Scotland is stuck in a class mentality that says if you’re middle class and want to go to rugby you can drink, and if you’re middle class and want to go to football you can drink.

“I don’t see why, in moderation, men and women who go to football can’t have a few drinks. It happens in parts of England and different parts of Europe.”

The alcohol ban was introduced at all stadia across Scotland after violent scenes marred the 1980 Scottish Cup final when Rangers and Celtic fans fought running battles on the pitch at Hampden after the match and mounted police helped restore order.

The Scottish Government last looked at the issue in football seven years ago. But the then justice secretary Kenny MacAskill ruled out lifting the ban after Rangers fans rioted in Manchester following the side’s Uefa Cup final defeat in 2008.

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This month MacAskill’s successor Michael Matheson dismissed calls from the head of the Scottish Football Association to permit the sale of alcohol at grounds.

Matheson was reacting to a statement by the SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, who said he hopes to persuade police and government that Scotland is now “a responsible nation”, and football fans have moved on from the troubles of the 1980s.

Murphy said yesterday: “Obviously the game had to change after the Old Firm riot at Hampden and all that sort of stuff, but we are a long way away from that.

“I think we should at least do it on a trial basis. I don’t think we want people drinking from 9am to 3pm, but I’m interested in trialling people being allowed to drink in the stadium for maybe an hour before the game.

“As long as it’s not just just driven by football clubs’ determination to raise a couple more quid.

“It’s about improving the experience of the supporter. As long as you can do it in a way that doesn’t put families off, I’m up for trying it.”

Murphy added that he was against lifting the ban for the first time at February’s Old Firm match (in the Scottish League Cup) between Rangers and Celtic.

“We shouldn’t be trying alcohol for the first time at that,” Murphy said.

“That’s a no brainer. We have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in this country, but I think the way we have cut off working class people from the chance to have a drink or two at a football match is wrong.”

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