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Football’s 35-year booze ban may be lifted to entice fans back into stadiums this year

A lifting of football’s 35-year booze ban is being considered among proposals to bring fans back into stadiums, Sportsmail can reveal.

Supporters have been forbidden from drinking within sight of the pitch since 1985, a move brought in when hooliganism was rife.

However, discussions are ongoing over allowing supporters back into venues in a safe manner given the threat of coronavirus. Allowing fans to consume alcoholic beverages in their seats is one of the measures under consideration.

The move would be made primarily to avoid the threat of congestion on concourses where fans – banned from boozing in their seats – often gather en masse to consume their drinks.

Sources have disclosed that there is a belief that the ruling, which does not apply to other sports and concerts, is outdated and should be changed. Indeed, some of the nation’s clubs who play in more modern facilities already have the technology to see food and drink delivered directly to seats.

The government wants to see fans back inside grounds by October, should it be safe, and the lifting of the rule could be an integral part of their return. Any change may well come in the shape of a trial period.

The Premier League has set up a working group examining various initiatives, along with medical experts, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and Westminster.

Many have called for the ban to be lifted on previous occasions. Some believe it may encourage stayaways back into stadiums, especially in the lower leagues, where many clubs are facing severe financial challenges.

In 2018, then EFL boss Shaun Harvey called for a review on the ruling, branding it ‘disproportionate’. His comments echoed the views of many of his clubs, who believe that the removal of the ban would be lucrative and would come with minimal increased risk of disorder.

The Football Supporters Federation has previously branded the rule as ‘outdated and based on prejudice’.

Any lifting of the ban, which is a piece of legislation, would need government support. Known as The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985, the ruling was brought in after years of trouble on the terraces. 

It only applies to stadiums in England and Wales, with Scotland having a total ban, brought in following violence at the 1980 Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers. A trial had been considered for Euro 2020 matches due to be held at Hampden Park.

Some clubs believe that the measure actually causes more problems than it solves, with supporters binge drinking pre-kick-off and during half-time before returning to their seats.

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