Hearts and Hibs keen for alcohol sale trial

Hearts fans enjoy a beer at a match during a pre-season tour of Germany. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Hearts fans enjoy a beer at a match during a pre-season tour of Germany. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Capital’s football clubs have given their backing to plans for lifting the alcohol ban at football matches – with Hibs and Hearts saying they would be keen to take part in a trial.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy reopened the debate on drinking at football grounds at the weekend when he said football fans should not be treated differently from rugby supporters at Murrayfield, where alcohol is allowed.

Hibs said they would be keen to take part in a pilot scheme, which could see low-alcohol lager sold on a trial basis. And Hearts also support ending the 35-year-old prohibition.

But one fans leader said there was no obvious clamour for a change – and warned the move could be an opportunity to charge inflated prices.

The Scottish Tories, who had already called for the ban to be lifted, have published a survey showing 85 per cent of senior clubs want the issue re-examined or a pilot scheme launched.

Leeann Dempster, chief executive of Hibs, said: “We would be very supportive of a pilot on this issue, as we believe such a trial would help ease any concerns people may have.

“Other sports, such as rugby, can serve alcohol and alcohol has been served in English football stadiums and in many other countries for years.

“The entire environment in which the top level of Scottish football is played has changed immeasurably since the alcohol ban was introduced. Clubs have invested heavily in creating much safer, better monitored and more comfortable facilities for supporters and we believe that the time is right to create a pilot to see whether the lifting of this ban is the right way to proceed.”

Hearts owner Ann Budge agreed behaviour and attitudes had changed since the ban was imposed in 1980 after rioting at the Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Celtic.

Ms Budge said: “Heart of Midlothian Football Club would be delighted to work with the footballing authorities here in Scotland to examine the issues and address concerns regarding the reintroduction of alcohol at football matches in a safe and controlled manner.”

Tom Watson, who chairs the Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs, said he was not aware of any clamour for the ban to be lifted, but was not against a trial.

He said: “We’ve managed without drink for ages. It’s bad enough queuing for a pie. And what are they going to charge? It costs you an arm and a leg for a pie and Bovril.”

Colin Grieve, secretary of the Southern Hibs Supporters Club, backed lifting the ban for a trial period.

“You could see people on TV at the rugby enjoying a drink. If you’re able to do that at the rugby, why not football?”