Arrests for alcohol related offences at professional football games in the UK are at a record low, according to the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU).
The UKFPU are responsible for policing football games in the UK, from the Premier League down to League Two, and define alcohol offences as any alcohol related breach of Schedule 1 of the Football Spectators Act 1989.
This includes offences such as smuggling alcohol into football stadiums and being drunk and disorderly while travelling to a game.
Their data shows between the 2008-09 season, to the 2018-19 season, arrests fell by nearly 90%, as can be seen on the graph below.
To better understand the relationship between alcohol and football, SWL spoke to Alcohol Change UK, a charity working to reduce the harm that’s associated with alcohol.
Director for Wales, Andrew Misell, said: “There’s definitely a relationship between alcohol and sport and it goes all the way from the grassroots clubs to the Premier League.
“At grassroots level many clubs are built around a clubhouse with a bar and consider the takings to be an important part of club revenue.”
In the professional game there is often a large police presence at football games, with police considering experience from the hooliganism of the 1980s to the chaos of the recent European Championships.
Misell recognises the hard work that goes into policing a major sporting event: “I have a lot of sympathy for them, because obviously they’re trying to manage a large crowd.
“They know they can’t intervene in every little piece of trouble – they probably have to judge quite carefully when to go in and when not to go in.
“Obviously, they’re not going to eject everyone who is intoxicated, but they need to keep a constant eye on it – I do not envy their position being in the middle of all that.”
Alcohol in football has always been hotly debated, with fans banned from drinking alcohol in sight of the pitch.
There have been calls to lift that ban and the figures from 2018-19 (the last season unaffected by Covid) show that alcohol related arrests are down to just 121.
Misell said: “There’s this constant discussion back and forth about permitting alcohol pitch-side in the top tiers of English football.
“I would say in theory, there is no problem with someone enjoying a drink or two and watching some sport.
“The trouble is it’s not always that simple and we know that when people do start drinking a lot it can really spoil it for everyone else.”
It’s a debate that’s sure to rumble on, but with arrests for alcohol related offences at a record low, we could be seeing change sooner than we might have thought.