Alcohol sale trial ‘absolutely the wrong thing to do’ – football policing chief

Football’s policing chief says there is “no evidence base” to support a trial allowing the sale of alcohol at top-level matches.

The fan-led review, chaired by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, recommended last November that a series of small-scale pilots allowing the sale of alcohol in sight of the pitch should take place at a selection of National League and League Two clubs.

Currently, it is illegal for fans to drink in their seat or in the stands from the fifth tier National League upwards.

The recommendation comes against the backdrop of rising disorder, with data published by the Home Office on Thursday showing football-related arrests at their highest level in eight years last season while incidents of disorder were reported at 53 per cent of all regulated matches in England and Wales in that campaign.

(Cheshire Police Handout/PA)
(Cheshire Police Handout/PA)

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for football policing, says alcohol is a “perennial driver” of poor behaviour in football and wider society and he remains vehemently opposed to any pilot taking place.

“I’ve been very consistent, I’ve never thought it was appropriate,” he told the PA news agency.

“We have a relationship with alcohol in this country which leads to poor behaviour. I’ve been unequivocal in my statements and in my representations to Government that (a pilot) is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

“I question the evidence that underpins the recommendation from the Crouch review. What is the evidence base? When you speak to fans, the vast majority I speak to are generally pretty happy with having a drink before the game, at half-time and after the game.

“If you can’t go 45 minutes without a drink you’ve probably got a problem.

“And actually just the mechanics of it – if you’re a fan in a seat and people are constantly coming past you with drinks, then going to the toilet…

“We’ve seen the bizarre habit of throwing £8 pints in the air when people score – that’s just going to cause aggravation.

“I see no evidence base for it, I don’t see a massive clamour for it. I think the situation we’ve got is perfectly acceptable and I remain absolutely opposed to any relaxation of alcohol in football.”

In April the Government accepted the fan-led review’s recommendation to review the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act 1985 which prohibits the sale of alcohol in sight of the pitch.

“The Government recognises the potential commercial benefits that a change in this regard could bring for clubs, particularly lower down the football pyramid, but this must be balanced against wider fan safety considerations,” the response document said.

It also noted however that the Baroness Casey review into the chaos at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley last year had identified alcohol consumption as a “key driver” of the anti-social behaviour.