Southeastern Conference ends resistance to in-stadia alcohol sale

US college sports organisation the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has rolled back more than three decades of tradition by moving to approve the sale of alcoholic beverages inside the stadia and arenas of its member schools.

The announcement makes the SEC the last major conference to abolish such a ban, potentially allowing its schools to tap into a new revenue stream. Under a revised policy, each institution in the Conference now has the autonomy to determine the permissibility of selling alcoholic beverages in its athletics venues, subject to certain Conference-wide alcohol management expectations.

The revised SEC policy on alcohol availability, which was approved during the Conference’s 2019 Spring Meetings, takes effect from August 1 and requires any SEC institution choosing to permit alcohol sales at athletics events to establish policies governing the sale and distribution of drinks consistent with requirements established and agreed to by the Conference membership. In the past, SEC athletics programs have only been able to sell alcoholic drinks in premium seating areas.

The revised policy requires institutions to implement a series of Conference-wide alcohol management procedures, including the establishment of designated stationary sales locations, a restriction prohibiting sales by vendors in seating areas, a limit on the number of alcoholic beverages purchased per transaction and designated times that sales must cease specific to each athletics event.

“We are proud of the great game-day atmospheres the SEC and our member schools have cultivated throughout our history, and no other conference rivals the SEC in terms of our ability to offer an intense yet family-friendly atmosphere for all of our fans,” said University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides, current chair of the SEC presidents and chancellors.

“This policy is intended to enhance the game-day experience at SEC athletics events by providing our schools the autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their respective campuses while also establishing expectations for responsible management of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.”

Any sales of alcoholic beverages in public seating areas will be limited to beer and wine, and each institution that chooses to sell alcohol will be required to implement a server training program for staff.

The policy does not impact suites, clubs or private leased areas in which the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages was previously permitted. Advertising displays mentioning or promoting alcoholic beverages are not permitted in any playing facility with the exception of common point-of-sale signage.

“Our policy governing alcohol sales has been a source of considerable discussion and respectful debate among our member universities in recent years,” added SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“As a Conference, we have been observant of trends in the sale and consumption of alcohol at collegiate sporting events and have drawn upon the experiences and insights of our member schools which have responsibly established limited alcohol sales within controlled spaces and premium seating areas. We remain the only conference to set forth league-wide standards for the responsible management of the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Image: LSU Athletics