Scottish football alcohol ban ‘set to be lifted’

Celtic fans in Dublin in 2011 were able to enjoy a drink in the ground. Picture: SNS

Celtic fans in Dublin in 2011 were able to enjoy a drink in the ground. Picture: SNS

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SCOTTISH football could begin moves to permit the sale of ­alcohol inside stadiums after the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association admitted that talks with Police Scotland have already taken place.

Initial proposals include selling only low-alcohol lager and cider and maintaining a ban on spirits.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said yesterday: “The sale of alcohol at grounds has been on the agenda within our Professional Game Board for a number of months now. We’ve had discussions internally and with Police Scotland.

“It remains something we would like to explore. Why are there challenges for Scottish football fans in having a drink in a football stadium?

“Clearly, there are issues that the police and the government have over what happened in the 1980s in Scotland and we have to respect that and work with them.”

The restriction on selling ­alcohol was imposed following a riot after the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers in 1980.

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However, there have been intermittent calls to review the decision, particularly in recent years. Rugby fans are allowed to drink after the same ban was ­relaxed at BT Murrayfield in 2007.

Mr Regan was speaking after an inaugural SFA convention, intended to look at key areas of the game as Glasgow prepares to become a host city for the 60th anniversary of the European Championships in 2020.

Sports promoter Barry Hearn, one of the speakers at Wednesday’s convention, questioned why Scottish football fans could not drink alcohol at football matches. He described it as an “insult” to the paying customer in a talk where he described Scottish football officials as “lazy” and “mired in self-pity”.

The timing of an attempt to review the ban on alcohol could be an issue after Hearts owner Ann Budge condemned the ­behaviour of both sets of ­supporters at Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie between the Tynecastle club and Celtic.

“We can’t make the decision ourselves,” said Mr Regan yesterday. “We need to work with others and persuade, influence and maybe try some things and, hopefully over time, persuade people we’re a responsible ­nation in a very different place and fans are much more appreciative of the entertainment and not just there to cause trouble.

“If they look at Australia, they introduced lower alcohol ­content beers,” he added. “It’s ­actually started to become a much wider selling product in Australia.

“That came about as a result of a trial in sport. We’ve got to learn from other areas. I hope over time we get back to being allowed to have a drink at a football stadium. Barry Hearn made the point that people are still drinking. They’re having a drink in the pub over the road and running in at five to three and that in itself is an issue.

“It can be done in different ways. There might be no ­premium drinks or spirits and it’s only low-alcohol lager and cider. There are a number of methods but we must decide first of all how we do it and who the key stakeholders are that we need to influence.

“Our members will also have a view on it as well.”

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