Could Sunderland fans soon be allowed to drink beer in their Stadium of Light seats? Clubs call for 33-year-old law to be overturned

Fans watching Sunderland at the Stadium of Light could drink in the stands, if the rules are changed.
Fans watching Sunderland at the Stadium of Light could drink in the stands, if the rules are changed.

Sunderland fans and fellow football supporters should be able to drink in their seats once again, according to campaigners.

The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) is calling on a rethink on the legislation dating back to 1985, which bans fans from drinking alcohol in view of the pitch, restricting them to the concourse if they have a pint.

The FSF says the rules are being put in the spotlight again as clubs push for a change in the "draconian" rules.

The Echo understands Sunderland is among clubs who would like to see the matter discussed with a view to changing the rules.

A number of Football League clubs are understood to be in favour of a pilot scheme, possibly at low-rivalry games and limited to one half of a match, to see how it would work.

It comes as clubs increasingly use their grounds to host many different events other than football matches, including gigs.

This means while fans of music acts including Beyonce, Take That and Kings of Leon have been able to enjoy a drink on the terraces at the Stadium of Light, football supporters have had to keep their pints away from a pitch view.

Rugby games held at football ground have also seen regulations waived to let fans drink in the stands.

Clubs say a change would mean fair treatment for football fans, give supporters a better matchday experience, mean less binge drinking before games and at half time and a revenue boost for clubs.

The FSF's caseworker Amanda Jacks told Talksport: “When the laws were drafted they were a knee-jerk reaction to problems at the time.

"Nobody thought them through properly and certainly didn’t foresee that in 2018 we would be talking about football fans being singled out from the rest of society.”

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Football is the only sport that has such draconian restrictions on alcohol consumption.

"Fans of other sports are free to drink in the stands or on coaches whereas football fans are not – we want to see parity.

“The alcohol restrictions are a relic of a bygone era, there is absolutely no evidence or research to suggest that these laws have any bearing whatsoever on preventing or curtailing football related disorder in and around our stadiums.”

However, the Government has said there are good reasons for the rule being in place.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is an important piece of public order legislation, which specifically applies to designated football matches because of football’s unique public order risks.

"It provides a balance, permitting fans to enjoy alcoholic drinks in a controlled environment within concourse and hospitality areas.

“We are satisfied that existing legislation is necessary and appropriate.”

The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 allows the consumption of alcohol inside stadia but not in view of the playing area.

The Home Office says there is a strong link between alcohol and violent crime, minor incidents and antisocial behaviour and added many incidents of football-related disorder are spontaneous, involving offenders who have consumed alcohol, often to excess.