Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA
Britain’s top football police official told MPs that families inside stadiums could be drenched in ‘lager shampoos’ every time a goal is scored if the alcohol ban is lifted.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police also warned that the growing clamor to end the 36-year-old drinking ban in sight of the pitch was a “dangerous argument” that would lead to more violence.
Related: English football reform ‘delayed by politics’, says Tracey Crouch
Testifying before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Roberts rejected a suggestion that it would be better to change the law for the police because fans would not drink before games and arrive late, or for clubs, which could generate additional revenue.
“I don’t buy the argument at all,” he replied. “People were always drinking to excess outside, but then they would come in and keep drinking. And so you would give them an extra 90 minutes to drink. And more alcohol causes more problems.
He added: “You would have so many problems, they would have to pay more police in the stadiums to deal with the problems. Then you have the issues of people throwing beer in the air, which you see all the time at Boxpark and such. So if you’re out there with the family and every time you hit a goal you get a lager shampoo, that doesn’t make it a good place to go.
Drinking in sight of the pitch has been banned in the first five tiers of football since 1985, although it is permitted in cricket, both rugby codes, horse racing and darts. Last year, MP Tracey Crouch called for a pilot in the fourth and fifth tiers as part of her review of the governance of fan-run football.
But Roberts made it clear he opposed the suggestion, pointing out that people spilling beer on other fans would cause more problems – and that there was already “pretty serious violence” even in the leagues. lower, where there is little security, police or CCTV. “So I just think that’s a really dangerous argument to suggest that we should bring the booze back,” he said.
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Meanwhile, Peter Houghton of the Football Safety Officers Association has warned of the growth in cocaine use among spectators of British sport. “Across all aspects of sport there has been an increase in cocaine use,” he told MPs. “A good friend of mine at Cambridge United said when he checked the men’s toilets after the game it looked like a launderette, there was so much powder everywhere.
“Violence in football has always been synonymous with alcohol. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s not just about football. It’s prevalent in different sports. And you’re not just pointing the finger at consumers of alcohol, but also drug addicts.