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Fan-led review ‘could lead to drinking in seats being permitted in football stands’

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Drinking alcohol in seats at football grounds, banned since 1985, could be reinstated as part of a fan-led review into the game.

Former sports minister and current Conservative MP Tracey Crouch is set to publish her independent review into football, with a key recommendation being changes to how alcohol is consumed within stadiums, according to The Times newspaper.

Currently, drinking alcohol is permitted in the concourses of grounds in the Football League but not in seats, meaning fans can drink before the match and quickly at half-time.

England players watch the penalty shootout
Image: Some will be critical of the proposal after the violence at the Euro 2020 final in July

Ms Crouch admitted the timing of the recommendation against the backdrop of the scenes at Wembley for the Euro 2020 final in July is not ideal, but feels the moment has come to review how alcohol is viewed as part of the match-going experience.

“Our view on alcohol and football is outdated,” she told The Times.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. Let’s get the data.

“My view is not some kind of altruistic view that fans should be able to drink at football. It’s also about allowing clubs to be able to sustain themselves.

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“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.”

Ms Crouch will push for a pilot on serving alcohol at clubs in the National League and League Two with a view to extending it across the professional game, thus protecting the income of clubs lower down the footballing pyramid.

“Take a club like Dulwich Hamlet, which is in National League South,” Ms Crouch said. “Its revenue is generated through its refreshments.

“If it gets promoted to the National League Premier [which operates under the alcohol ban], 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 and drink as a cricket fan, but go to Elland Road and you can’t drink as a football fan.”

The fan-led review, chaired by Ms Crouch, was established amid the controversy that followed the collapsed European Super League project earlier this year, while the Duke of Cambridge has shown his support for grassroots football fans hoping to save the “heart and soul” of their clubs.