Since 1985, legislation has existed which prevents spectators from drinking alcoholic beverages in view of the playing area, forcing fans to remain within the concourse of the venue.
Clubs challenging the current law, which is unique to stadia featuring soccer matches, have argued that an end to the 1985 Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol) Act would reduce the issue of matchday binge drinking, as well as providing an increase in revenue for clubs.
The report states that English Football League (EFL) outfits Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Doncaster Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Port Vale, Forest Green Rovers, Lincoln City, Tranmere Rovers and Northampton Town have all backed a pilot scheme. Meanwhile, Grimsby Town, Newport County and Gillingham are also said to have suggested that they would be open to discussing the situation.
The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) is also supporting calls for a reconsideration of the 33-year-old regulations. Amanda Jacks, caseworker for the FSF, told Talksport: “When the laws were drafted they were a knee-jerk reaction to problems at the time.
However, a Home Office spokesperson disputed the clubs’ suggestions, explaining: “We are satisfied that existing legislation is necessary and appropriate.” The spokesperson also highlighted the “unique public order risks” carried by soccer.
The Football Association (FA), English soccer’s governing body, told Talksport that it would look into the issue, should clubs display a desire to do so.
As part of the current legislation, Premier League grounds such as Anfield and St James’ Park allow fans to consume alcohol in their seats when they are hosting rugby league fixtures. However, when soccer is being played at the same venue, it is not permitted.
Marie Hepburn, head of stadium operations at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster – where both soccer and rugby league also take place, told Talksport: “Football has changed significantly since 1985. We don’t see alcohol causing the level of problems that it used to. A blanket ban is disproportionate to the level of risk that we are now facing.”
She added: “Having a 15-minute window where they can get a drink causes massive queues. You also have the challenge of staff being able to manage that.”
Under the present laws, hospitality facilities have their curtains drawn during play in order to prevent spectators from consuming alcohol within private boxes, while also watching the game unfold.
In terms of a pilot scheme, clubs acknowledged that challenges still exist, including the ease of access to concourses at certain venues, as well as the risk of allowing fans to consume alcohol during matches involving a fierce rivalry.
The debate comes amid a government review into safe standing laws at soccer stadia, with a decision expected on whether to end a ban on rail seating before the end of 2018.