THE ban on selling alcohol at football games but not rugby matches is rooted in "class prejudice" and needs to end, Jim Murphy said yesterday as he announced Scottish Labour was to hold a club summit and public consultation on the issue.


However, the Scottish government said the ban was supported by the police and those who worked with victims of domestic violence, and had made Scottish football more family friendly.

The Scottish Labour leader, a teetotal Celtic season ticket holder, used Saturday's game between St Mirren and Inverness to launch a campaign on ending the ban, which has been in place since a riot at the Scottish Cup final between the Old Firm sides in 1980.

The booze ban at rugby stadia ended in 2007.

Murphy also announced a high level summit for clubs, fan groups, the police and football's governing bodies.

He claimed SNP ministers had failed to listen to the fans and clubs, and so Labour, "as the alternative Scottish Government", would step in to hold a consultation in their place.

There would also be surveys outside grounds and online - a convenient tool for harvesting voter information ahead of the general election.

The Scottish Football Association revealed in December that ending the drink ban had been high on its agenda "for months" and talks had already taken place with Police Scotland.

Murphy said it was wrong that people could buy alcohol at rugby games or drink in corporate boxes at football, but ordinary fans could not.

In a clear attempt to reconnect with disaffected working class Labour supporters, the East Renfrewshire MP said it time to stop treating football fans as "second class citizens".

Murphy said: "Football fans are paying for the sins and crimes of Scottish football fans from 1980 in the cup final. When you can drink at football grounds in England and across the continent, you should stop discriminating against football fans [in Scotland].

"Why treat football fans different from rugby fans, and why treat Scottish football fans different from English football fans?

"There's no logic to it, unless people genuinely believe that, genetically, Scottish football fans are uniquely incapable of enjoying a drink in moderation and behaving themselves.

"I sometimes think the attitude to football fans in Scotland has a degree of class prejudice ... [the] sense that drinking's OK for rugby and drinking's OK for corporate hospitality at football, but see the men and women who go along and just buy their tickets? Well it's not for them, it's not suitable for them. I just simply disagree."

He said he did not want fans bringing carry-outs into games, but said the purchase of alcohol at football should be phased in, starting "in a limited way" with pilots and plastic bottles.

Ultimately, Murphy said he would like to see "all clubs" allowed to sell alcohol.

Asked about previous police objections to ending the alcohol ban, Murphy said: "I just simply disagree with them. I don't think football fans are genetically different from rugby fans."

He added football had moved on hugely since the largely all male crowds of 1980, with all-seater grounds and a more family atmosphere, and the sale of alcohol at football grounds in England had not harmed family attendances.

"I would rather the Scottish Government is doing this consultation, but they've dug their heels in and are refusing to do it," he said.

"So rather than waiting for the Scottish Government, as the alternative Scottish Government, we're going to get on with it.

"We're going to find out what Scotland thinks about this, and we're going to start with the football clubs and the football supporters."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The vast majority of football fans in Scotland are well behaved and a credit to their clubs, but the current policy on alcohol at football grounds was introduced for good reasons, and the view of the police is that it should remain in place.

"Groups offering support to victims of domestic violence also strongly support the policy remaining as it is, given the marked increase in domestic abuse incidents which has been recorded in relation to some football matches.

"Having stadiums as alcohol-free zones has helped Scottish football to become the family-friendly experience it is for so many people today, and it is important not to jeopardise or undermine that success story."