In 2021, a fan-led review of football governance in England recommended that legislation surrounding alcohol and football be reviewed to determine whether it is still fit for purpose, the first such review since the mid-1980s. Restricting football fans’ alcohol consumption has been debated in the UK for over 40 years. However, more research is needed into the current attitudes of fans and influential stakeholders on this matter.
Focus groups with football supporters (n=79) and semi-structured interviews (n=15) with key organisational stakeholders were conducted between November 2019 and February 2021. Focus groups included fans who regularly attended matches and supported various teams from professional leagues in Scotland and England, casual fans who usually watched games at home or in bars, and fans who followed the Scotland and England national teams. Stakeholders were selected to represent organisations likely to be instrumental in any regulatory change, such as the UK and Scottish Governments, Police, football supporters’ groups and safety organisations.
The current law does not allow for alcohol to be consumed within view of the pitch. Participants from England suggested this could be changed. While in Scotland, where the legislation only allows alcohol to be sold in hospitality, most participants were in favour of allowing the general sale of alcohol at football stadia via a pilot scheme. The reasons for these changes included: reducing unhealthy drinking behaviours; minimising the health and safety risk of fans arriving at the stadium just before kick-off; and a potential increase in much needed revenue for clubs.
Our data suggests an evidence-based review of current laws regarding alcohol and football may be appropriate. However, any discussion regarding changes to the law regarding alcohol at football stadia, including potential pilot schemes, should be evaluated and monitored in terms of both financial impact and the impact on public health and safety.