English football’s long-held ban on fans drinking alcoholic beverages while watching games could reportedly be lifted if the recommendations of former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review into the sport are accepted.
The independent review, announced by then-Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in April, is seeking to explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football, building on the strengths of the football pyramid.
The alcohol ban has been in place since 1985, when the English game was beset by hooliganism, but The Times newspaper said Crouch’s independent review will outline pilot schemes to permit drinking at clubs in the National League Premier and League Two, with a view to ending the restrictions across all divisions.
Such a move is likely to spark debate in the wake of the scenes that marred the UEFA Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium this summer. However, Crouch believes the current rules encourage binge drinking and are part of the problem.
“Our view on alcohol and football is outdated,” she told The Times. “It’s not helped when you see scenes like we did at Wembley. But that’s why I would pilot it first.”
Crouch added: “We kettle people into drinking quickly at half-time. And that is the unhealthy aspect of the football fan’s relationship with alcohol. They drink a lot in a short space of time. So my recommendation is to pilot this and not have to down a pint at half-time.”
Crouch also believes lifting the ban on alcohol could help secure the financial future of clubs lower down the pyramid. With drinking permitted in non-league football below the National League Premier, those clubs that earn promotion can subsequently be hit with a significant revenue loss.
Crouch added: “Take a club like Dulwich Hamlet, which is in National League South,” Crouch said. “Its revenue is generated through its refreshments. If it gets promoted to the National League Premier, it effectively stops generating that revenue during a game. They said openly in evidence to us that they cannot afford to get promoted because of the rules around alcohol.
“Lots of clubs generate a lot of their income through their bars and I think it’s time to look at this issue again. We do have this bizarre situation where you can go to Headingley (in Leeds) and drink as a cricket fan, but go to Elland Road and you can’t drink as a football fan.”