Football clubs want the booze ban canned - but Falkirk MSP says no

Fans claim banning booze at football grounds - but not other sporting events - is discriminatory
Fans claim banning booze at football grounds - but not other sporting events - is discriminatory

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson will not revoke the alcohol ban at Scottish football grounds – but senior clubs in and around his constituency are in favour of selling a pint at the pitch.

Ochilview and The Falkirk Stadium both have on-site public bars but neither can serve alcohol during Stenhousemuir, East Stirlingshire or Falkirk games.

Pic Lisa McPhillips 13/12/2013'LARBERT, Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Michael Matheson meeting staf for publication of NHS staff survey.

Pic Lisa McPhillips 13/12/2013'LARBERT, Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Michael Matheson meeting staf for publication of NHS staff survey.

Pressure is mounting on the back of Barry Hearn’s recent comments to change laws brought introduced following the 1980 cup final and bring Scottish football in-line with clubs south of the border.

Only Camelon Juniors - who rely heavily on drink sales from their social club for survival - would be against revoking the ban, but even then, club secretary Robert McTaggart can see the point of the senior clubs looking to give the game a boost.

“We wouldn’t be for selling alcohol at the ground itself, but we do in the social club and it’s an important aspect of the club,” he told Heraldsport.

“That’s the case for some junior clubs but I can see why the senior clubs want it, because you can have a pint at games in England. We would not like supporters being able to bring drinks into the ground or buy it at the game though – we’re fine with the social club.”

East Stirlingshire are theoretically behind the move – though may not be able to put it in practise – particularly at the club’s temporary home at Ochilview.

Shire secretary Tadek Kopszywa explained: “It’s a hypothetical argument for us but we’d probably back the idea of re-introducing alcohol to grounds but perhaps wouldn’t implement it.

“There are logistics involved, and costs.

“Where would we sell it at Ochilview? You couldn’t have fans buying and drinking at the pitch as the kiosks are now. There is no concourse area away from the touchline like in England where fans can go to the bar, have a pint and watch footage on TV screens.

“Would the additional revenue from drink sales warrant the costs of the licence we’d require be that at Ochilview or a future ground which may - or may not - have a suitable concourse?

“It’s very hypothetical from our club but we wouldn’t oppose other clubs proposing it.”

Both Stenhousemuir and Falkirk run bars in the ground pre-and post-match and both clubs have positive feedback from supporters indulging either side of the game.

Falkirk are even investigating adding a ‘legends bar’ facility in the south stand at Westfield.

Bairns club secretary Ronnie Bateman said: “We have the Westfield Lounge which is widely used from noon on Saturdays, perhaps not so much by visiting fans, but it is there and we have never had any problems with that.

“We have discussed the issue and as a club we are in favour of a change. The Westfield Lounge is monitored well and any changes would be too.”

Stenhousemuir also view themselves as a family club but they too don’t have a problem with bringing booze back.

“We don’t have a problem with it coming back to lower league games, but we would like to move away from a pub culture and more towards a family, cafe-type culture, a bit like the European clubs do,” said Warriors director Iain McMenemy.

“We already have the Wee Bar - it’s a great facility at Ochilview, for home and away fans. The atmosphere is great and I’ve never seen anyone even asked to leave never mind any issues.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We want all football fans to enjoy our national sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. Decisions on the matter are informed by Police Scotland.

“Police Scotland have previously confirmed they are not at this stage minded to seek a relaxation of the controls on alcohol at football matches. In the event of any proposal to changes these controls, appropriate consultation with all relevant parties would be carried out.”

Falkirk West MSP politician Michael Matheson was appointed Scottish Govenrment justice secretary last month and was asked about the ban earlier this week.

He said he has “no plans to reintroduce alcohol to football stadiums” and added: “This is an issue that was raised a couple of years ago by the SFA and by some of the senior football clubs in Scotland.”

“But we have no plans to change that, and even if there was any consideration of looking at this matter there would have to be a consultation with the police, other enforcement bodies and local authorities to consider what the implications were.”

Should booze make a comeback? Tweet your views to @FalkirkHeraldSp or email sport@falkirkherald.co.uk