Time to lift alcohol ban at football matches – SFA

A Scotland fan has a drink at the match, but this was Murrayfield, not Hampden. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A Scotland fan has a drink at the match, but this was Murrayfield, not Hampden. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTTISH football chiefs want ministers to look at ending a controversial ban on alcohol sales in stadiums on match days.

Alcohol has been banned from grounds north of the Border for more than three decades, although drink is available at grounds in England and at Scottish rugby games, including internationals at Murrayfield.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) now wants a “serious and robust debate” on the issue.

The Scotsman has learned it would be prepared to use a Scotland international fixture to pilot the return of alcohol sales before they are reintroduced for domestic league games.

The SFA would like supporters to be allowed to buy alcohol in grounds before kick-off and at half-time – as fans are able to do in countries such as Spain, Germany and the United States.

A spokesman for the SFA suggested it would not lead to disorder or antisocial behaviour. He said: “We only recently took part in the first international football match without a police presence, between Scotland and Estonia, at Aberdeen.

“Last night, we had 7,000 happy Belgium fans at Hampden and the national side’s fans in the Tartan Army are well known for their positive behaviour throughout Europe.”

There was backing for a review from the Scottish Professional Football League, which said it was an issue “worthy of discussion”.

The ban was initially imposed following rioting at the 1980 Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Celtic.

Although alcohol can be served in corporate hospitality areas of football stadiums, the ban applies in every other part of grounds.

The SFA’s intervention came after senior clubs were asked by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson whether they would back scrapping the ban, which does not apply if a stadium is used for a concert.

She said attending a football match in Scotland was a “far more civilised experience” than in the 1980s, and insisted fans of Scottish teams should have the same rights as those in England and Wales, where drink can be consumed in concourse areas but not in the stands.

Ms Davidson said: “There’s no reason why this should be successfully in place in England but not north of the Border.

“I understand why the ban was brought in all those years ago, but times have changed significantly since then. We now have modern stadia with excellent stewarding to keep spectators safer, allowing more families to attend matches.

“This has resulted in the football watching experience being a far more civilised experience than it was 30 years ago.

“With that in mind, it’s time to consider allowing supporters to enjoy an alcoholic drink before the game and at half-time.”

Ms Davidson called on ministers to consider overturning the ban, a move she said would generate cash for struggling clubs. She said: “It seems unfair that people who can have a drink in a bar, rugby ground or even at a concert in football stadiums are unable to consume alcohol before they sit down to watch a game of football.”

However, the government and police chiefs both rejected the idea. A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are opposed to any relaxation of the legislation regarding the sale of alcohol.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring that football fans can enjoy our national sport in a safe, enjoyable environment and have no plans at this time to remove the existing restrictions on alcohol.”