Scottish football clubs are looking to exploit a potential loophole in legislation to allow the sale of alcohol at women’s football matches, with the hope that it could eventually lead to alcohol sales in the men’s game too.

The sale of alcohol has been prohibited at football matches - apart from in corporate hospitality areas - since 1980, when a riot at the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden provoked a tightening of the law.

Many within the game feel though that the legislation is now outdated, with the matchday experience having changed beyond all recognition in the four decades since the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 was introduced.

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As well as pushing for a change in the law, Herald Sport understands that a number of clubs are now also exploring the possibility that the women’s game may not be covered by the current legislation, on the grounds that the competitions women’s teams may play in, or more likely, the stadiums that some teams play in are not included.

Both SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and Scottish FA counterpart Ian Maxwell have bemoaned the restrictions around alcohol sales at football grounds in recent years.

Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) have long taken a hardline stance on the issue and will not accept alcohol sponsorship, for example, but it is understood that league body, the SWPL - while not actively looking to associate itself with alcohol - will support any member club who wishes to investigate the possibility of selling alcohol at matches.

And should that go ahead, and prove to be a success, there are many within the game who hope that it will demonstrate alcohol can be safely sold at football matches within Scotland, and it will strengthen their case for a relaxation of the current restrictions around the men’s game.

Privately, as well as having a desire to raise revenue from selling alcohol within their stadiums, many chief executives share their supporters’ concerns about the differing laws that govern those attending football matches and those who attend rugby, for example, and feel that by bringing alcohol sales ‘in house’, it will also discourage binge drinking before matches.

Dr Richard Purves, senior research fellow with the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University, says there may be merit in that argument, though he warned that it would be difficult to quantify how a change would affect consumption even if trials of alcohol sales were to go ahead.

“Football has changed, it is almost unrecognisable to how it was in 1980,” Dr Purves said.

“So, from that aspect, you could make a real argument that football now has CCTV, all-seater stadia, and the experience of going to a football match is so different to what it was 40 years ago.

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“So, there is an argument there to ask what the impact of current legislation is? Does it mean that people pre-load before the match because they know they’re not going to get a drink in the stadium? Does it result in people arriving late at the stadium? Or sneaking drink into the stadium? Are these the consequences of the current legislation or not?

“So, that is something to look at. Then you have the other side of it, which is that public health side of it. What would the impact be on alcohol consumption if you were to allow this to be trialled or to be brought in? What would the impact be on long-term health outcomes? What about the normalisation aspect around children and young people, and the impact on people in recovery? And what is the impact on football-related violence?

“So, there is certainly an argument that could be made on public safety and public order grounds, but it is a more difficult argument to make on public health grounds. But these are things you would want to look at if you were to propose a pilot.”