THE consumption of alcohol at major sporting events has been a topic of conversation recently with a complete U-turn taken by FIFA and the World Cup organisers to ban the selling of drink in every stadium.
This decision was made less than 24 hours before the commencement of the first game of the group stages with Budweiser, the tournament's main beer sponsor, losing a significant amount of revenue during the games. Alcohol was still available at the fan zones, but this was not enough for the company to even break even.
There have been speculations about the reason this choice was made. Many reports stated that members of Qatar’s royal family had asked for Budweiser stalls to be moved to less prominent locations, amid concerns over the impact of such visible drinking on local people. Major concern was for the fans in the stadiums from the host country, the Middle East, and the wider Asian continent, for whom drinking is not part of the culture.
Apart from this fact, there was visibly less trouble and altercations inside the stadiums during the games.
This raises the question, should more major sporting events follow in the World Cups shadow and ban alcohol inside the stadiums?
This would obviously have a huge financial loss for alcohol sponsors who pump a serious amount of money into these events and expect a return of this capital during the events themselves.
But on the flip side of the money issue is the overall fan experience while watching a match. If this rule came into effect, then there would be less movement from the stands into the bars during the game and possibly less roundness between opposite supporters.
It would be interesting to see could banning drink at matches works, as it seems to be such an integral part of the sports played in this country.
Different sporting organisations have taken alternative views to drink, with the FAI ending a 36-year ban on booze in the stand in September.
Football supporters were banned from drinking alcohol within sight of the pitch in 1985 due to hooliganism.
This change brings them equal to their rugby and cricket counterparts who have always been allowed enjoy their drinks from the comfort of their seats.
But could this huge change bring about the same reaction which caused the banning of alcohol in the stages in the first place? How come we don’t see as much hooliganism or fights during rugby games when most people are enjoying drinks while also watching the match?
GAA is one of the only sports here that still has an extremely regulated system when it comes to alcohol and drinks are not permitted within the seating area of the stadium during the games.
The GAA and HSE launched a programme in August titledin a bid to encourage fans to consume less alcohol.
Is this approach the new way forward or are people stuck in their ways when it comes to drinking on match day?
There has always been a tradition of enjoying a beverage either physically at the game or in a pub or even in the lead-up to the event, so why does the drinking have to stop when you enter the stadium?
Ultimately organisers and sporting bodies are trying to promote the actual watching of the game rather than moving in and out constantly during it.
Some people would argue that without drinking many wouldn’t bother attending games which would in turn not only affect the drink companies but the stadiums and organisers themselves.
It seems to be a double-edged sword with many people believing that a non-alcohol stadium would be a better alternative to violence and aggro that can sometimes be caused by the overconsumption of alcohol.
On the other hand, you have people that think alcohol is an integral part of the match day, making it a more social event in the build-up to the game itself.
In our culture, it is hard to see a major change in terms of the selling of alcohol inside stadiums but possibly with the World Cup over Irish sporting organisations could be changing their rules when it comes to drinks at games.