A League Two chief executive has given his backing to a proposed pilot which would end the “crazy” ban on allowing fans to drink alcohol in their seat.
MP Tracey Crouch told The Times she will recommend a pilot in the fourth tier and the National League Premier as part of her fan-led review of football governance, which is due to be published next month.
Drinking in sight of the pitch has been banned in the top five tiers of the game since 1985 but Leyton Orient CEO Danny Macklin said it was way past time that adult responsibility to drink sensibly and safely was conferred on football fans, as it is on those who watch other sports.
“It’s something we’re keen to see trialled. The reality is it will help improve the fan experience,” he told the PA news agency.
“At the moment we have a lot of fans that rush in to the Breyer Group Stadium at 10 to three after a few pints in the local establishments, rush to get in and often miss the first couple of minutes.
“This is an opportunity for us to create much-needed additional revenue, not just us at Leyton Orient but every club would be able to benefit from that.
“There will be fans who will say it creates a load of rowdy behaviour, the reality is we will make sure that’s policed in the same way as someone who’s going to have four or five pints in the local pub. This will be an opportunity to get people into the stadiums earlier, potentially keeping them there a little bit longer after the game, and allow them to be adults.
“I come from the world of cricket and it seems crazy that the same person can enjoy a nice cold pint on a hot summer’s day at the cricket but they can’t do that two weeks later at a football stadium.”
The EFL is understood to have been advocating for this change for some time, and Macklin highlighted the potentially huge financial upside to clubs who until recently had been starved of matchday revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans can be criminalised for drinking a pint in sight of the pitch at their team’s ground, yet if that stadium holds a music concert or rugby match no such laws apply – that’s clearly unfair.
“We average [attendances of] 5,500. If 1,000 people bought an additional pint at £3.50 you can do the maths. Three and a half thousand pounds, 20-odd times a year, that adds up.”
Since the possibility of a pilot was reported, some social media users have expressed concern about additional cups and bottles being thrown onto the pitch, sometimes in the direction of players.
Macklin, who said the club would likely keep an area of their family areas alcohol-free, added: “It’s a tribal game, we know that, and there is sometimes the banter that overspills, but only rarely.
“If someone is foolish enough to throw a plastic beer cup, they’re just as likely to throw a soft drink bottle, and that would probably cause more damage because the liquid would stay in the bottle.
“The majority of this will be in PET recyclable plastic bottles rather than as a plastic pint glass to avoid that euphoria moment when you score in the 90th minute and you’ve got beer stains all over your nice jacket.”
The Football Supporters’ Association gave its support to the pilot, and said in a statement: “We have long campaigned for the review of alcohol laws in football stadiums. Fans can be criminalised for drinking a pint in sight of the pitch at their team’s ground, yet if that stadium holds a music concert or rugby match no such laws apply – that’s clearly unfair.”
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