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Pilot to allow pitch side alcohol sales criticised by football lead

‘Bizarre’ plans to reintroduce alcohol at football matches have been criticised by the national policing leads.

The government-backed review included a call for alcohol sales to be permitted within sight of the pitch. it proposed a pilot to test the change.

But the football policing lead and Police and Crime Commissioners swiftly condemned the proposal.

A trial at Division 2 and National League level is being proposed, which would end a ban started in 1985 – covering the top five divisions - as part of measures to end hooliganism at matches.

Division 2 includes former top flight clubs Leighton Orient, Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City.

The change was argued for because lower level clubs have financial pressures.

The supporters-led report for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Review concluded that in light of the potential benefits to club sustainability and doubts about the effectiveness of the current law, the possibility of amending the law should be explored via a small scale pilot scheme at League Two and National League level carefully designed in conjunction with police advice alongside a possible review of the legislation, which would be the first such review in nearly 40 years of its existence.”

But the same review also highlighted a lack of governance among those clubs.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police the national lead for football, issued a heavily critical statement, accusing the review panel of failing to consult with the police.

“While this is obviously a fan-led review, it is making proposals to fundamentally change aspects of football governance, and it perhaps says a lot that the police haven’t been consulted or given notice of its recommendations,” he said.

“There is a clear link between alcohol and poor behaviour, not just in football but broader society, and increasingly we are seeing growing concerns in rugby and cricket about the negative impact on fans’ experiences.”

He added: “At a time when we are seeing worrying instances of violence at football at all levels, the timing of this proposal seems quite bizarre and if it were to lead to changes in the current legislative approach it would be an irresponsible act that would lead to more violence in our stadiums.”

His views were echoed by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ leads on Addiction and Substance Misuse, PCC for Dorset David Sidwick and PCC for Durham Joy Allen.

In a joint statement, they said too many fans were already causing alcohol-related incidents on match days.

They said: “We have spoken with policing leads on this topic and we share their concerns. There are already too many incidents of alcohol-related disorder at, and around, football grounds. Fans are able to drink on trains enroute to games, in pubs before the game, and in bars at the game itself.

“The main reason put forward in the report for allowing fans to drink in sight of the pitch appears to be financial. Many lower league football clubs are the heart of their local communities and we fully recognise the need for them to be more financially stable.

"But increasing alcohol consumption, risking disorder and making the atmosphere inside grounds less family- and community-friendly, is surely not the answer.”

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