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Football & Alcohol: A Toxic Relationship


There has recently been talk about allowing alcohol on the terraces at Premier League games in the last 12 months. Should it happen, it would be a landmark move, and one that many are fearful of.

Alcohol and football have long had a rather complex history and in recent times it’s become more of a conversation with calls to overturn a law which prevents alcohol being drunk on the terraces in professional football.

It comes at an interesting time, and one that doesn’t make a great deal of sense. First and foremost, alcohol addiction is at an all-time high and making it more accessible is only going to be an enabler for alcoholics and provide a gateway towards addiction, particularly amongst younger fans where peer pressure and male machismo is still rife.

Secondly, there have been some rather prevalent examples of the negative effects of alcohol around football in the last couple of years. The scenes at Wembley Stadium as England reached the European Championship Final in the summer of 2021 were highly fuelled by alcohol and drugs, and caused a number of injuries, as well as fans illegally entering the ground without tickets.

Then there’s the problem of drinks being thrown as goals are scored, with Mark Roberts, the UK’s football policing chief, claiming that fans would be drenched with a “lager shampoo”.

Of course, the problems with alcohol and football isn’t the same all around the world and across all sport. Alcohol at cricket has enjoyed few problems down the years, and the same is the case with rugby, while in countries such as Germany, football grounds have allowed alcohol on the terraces for many years.

There’s no denying there’s an unhealthy relationship between the two though. Studies have shown that domestic abuse rises significantly after football matches, fuelled often by alcohol, which would make it a huge risk for the Premier League, one of the world’s most profitable and watched divisions, to make such a decision.

It could also significantly damage not just the English game, but the reputation of football around the world. Many people outside the game already associate the game with anti-social behaviour, not just in the UK, but in countries such as Italy, Turkey and many parts of South America too, and that would only heighten as unsavoury scenes became more common and were beamed around the world.

That would lessen the appeal in many parts of the world such as Asia, and have a huge impact on the divisions brand power, as well as the thousands of people that will suffer directly or indirectly through increasing the accessibility of alcohol in football grounds.