THE “out-of-date” ban on consuming alcohol inside Scottish football grounds needs to be reviewed amid claims that it could actually be contributing to binge drinking and drug taking, it was yesterday stated.  

Football fans in this country have not been able to drink inside stadiums since the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 was passed at Westminster in the wake of the riot at the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden that summer.

However, research into the relationship between match goers and alcohol which was spearheaded by University of Stirling academics found that many stakeholders in the game believe the legislation is not fit for purpose in 2024 and might be leading to antisocial conduct.  

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“The current legislation as it stands in Scotland might create situations where people tend to binge drink more,” said Dr Richard Purves, a senior research fellow with the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University of Stirling.

“One of the arguments which is made is that people are taking drugs because they can’t get alcohol at the game. People do say that not being able to drink alcohol at the match is making drug taking more likely. But we just don’t know that. That is not something that we can say based on any evidence.

“We know that people are drinking before the match and after the match. Some people are taking alcohol in to grounds at the moment. So there is alcohol around the Scottish game. The sheer normality of the alcohol taking struck us.

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“But we were struck by the lengths that people would go to so they could drink alcohol. We had reports of what people did when they were queueing to get in to a pub. They went to an off licence before so they could drink a carry out when they were queueing to get in to the pub. But we just don’t know if the legislation was to change if there would be changes in people’s behaviour.”

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Dr Purves continued: “A lot of the stakeholders we spoke to said the legislation in Scotland is out of date, it is from the 1980s, it doesn’t bear any relation to just now. What we are saying is that it is appropriate to review the current legislation.

“What we based our conclusions on was potential changes in England where the Tracey Crouch review was looking at changing the legislation and allowing alcohol to be sold within view of the pitch.

“But within that you would have to take into account the impact on match day safety and a whole range of issues and public safety and normality as well. You would have to think about the impact on young people as well.

“If you were to introduce alcohol to the Scottish game are you making it more normal for people to be drinking around young people? You have to look at all these things. One of our conclusions was that if it was to be reviewed it needs to be done properly and systematically and independently as well.”

Dr Purves, who was the lead investigator on Alcohol Consumption Among UK Football Supporters: Investigating The Contested Field Of The Football Carnivalesque, and his colleagues found that supporters did not feel excessive drinking and drug use caused fan violence.

“When you are talking about disorder, people almost tend to be reflecting back to the 1980s,” he said. “It wasn’t a huge concern for the fans overall. A lot of fans were stressing that they went to games every week and very rarely did they see disorder.

“When there is disorder, it is high profile and is reported in the media. People are aware of it happening. But the majority of matches which go on in the country pass off without any disorder at all. They believe alcohol is not linked to violence.

“When there is violence, and actually organised violence, they believe that people wouldn’t be drinking or taking drugs because they want to fight. When there is organised violence they don’t want to be high off their face on drugs or drunk because they are not able to fight so well. It wasn’t the concern it had been in the past when it comes to violence and disorder.”

The Herald: