Fresh calls for stadium drinking under fire

FRESH calls for restrictions on the availability of alcohol at football stadia to be lifted have drawn fire from the trade.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy chaired a meeting at Hampden last week, which is said to have included representatives from the Scottish Football Association (SFA), football clubs and Police Scotland, to discuss lifting the controls, which were introduced in 1980 after trouble flared at an Old Firm game. Currently alcohol can be sold in corporate and hospitality areas at football games; the Scottish Government lifted the restrictions for international rugby games at Murrayfield stadium in 2007.

Both Murphy and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have called for the restrictions at football games to be lifted; first minister Nicola Sturgeon, however, has reportedly said she is “far from convinced”.

Should the Scottish Government lift the controls, it would fall to licensing boards to determine any applications from football clubs.

SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said he is against the restrictions being removed. “I don’t think there’s anyone saying they’re not going to the football because they can’t have a pint,” he said.

“There are a lot of well-run pubs near football grounds that would lose out. If the government did allow it, it would then go to boards and you would have a situation where some boards would allow it and others wouldn’t. It brings the overprovision argument into focus.”

Glasgow operator Donald MacLeod said: “Given the frailty of the licensed trade at the moment, bringing drinking back into football and turning stadiums into super-pubs is just another nail in the coffin.”

Edinburgh licensing board convener Eric Milligan said: “I agree that people should be able to buy alcohol at football grounds.”

A spokesman for Glasgow board said should the law change “any application in relation to football stadiums will be looked at on its own individual merits and with full regard to the licensing objectives”.

A Scottish Government spokesman 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.”