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Police chief: Proposed drinking in stands pilot is ‘irresponsible’


T

he continued high level of incidents being reported to the police at football matches shows now is not the right time to consider letting fans drink in sight of the pitch, the UK’s football policing lead has said.

Data released by the Home Office on Thursday morning showed incidents were reported at 37 per cent of the matches played in England and Wales in the 2020-21 season where spectators were allowed.

That was slightly down on the 2019-20 season (40 per cent) but an increase on 2018-19 (33 per cent), the last full season not affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The data, which covered the period between August 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021, comes as a fan-led review chaired by Conservative MP Tracey Crouch is set to recommend a pilot allowing supporters at matches in League Two and the National League to drink in the stand or in their seat.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football lead, said the figures indicated an ongoing problem with disorder at football and described the proposed pilot as “unnecessary”.

“This trend shows now is not the time to be having discussions about making big changes at football grounds, such as allowing fans to drink alcohol in their seats,” he said.

“It is evident there is a link between alcohol and many of these offences and one of the principal safety measures introduced by the Taylor report has already been unpicked by reintroducing standing areas.

“Allowing drinking in seats would fuel disorderly behaviour and is unnecessary as spectators are allowed to drink on concourses – to make this change would be irresponsible.

“Whenever there is a high-profile incident of disorder there are calls to clamp down and tackle the issues, which means taking sensible decisions about policy and legislation.”

Incidents were reported at 79 of the 212 matches not played entirely behind closed doors in the 2020-21 season, the Home Office report said.


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