Ron Gordon brands rugby's preferential treatment 'discriminatory' as Hibs owner calls for football alcohol ban rethink
As an outsider coming into Scottish football, Hibs owner Ron Gordon says he is struggling to wrap his head around the discriminatory way football is treated in this country.
Addressing his ongoing desire to drive forward a pilot scheme offering alcohol in stadiums, the US-based businessman claimed that the ongoing disparity in the way the sport is treated compared to numerous others, including rugby, would have spawned a lawsuit in his homeland.
“I have, in principle, a problem with rugby being okay, and football being wrong. It’s discriminatory, it’s just not right.”
Scottish football was hit by a booze ban in 1980, in the wake of the Scottish Cup final riot. Blighted by hooliganism, England followed suit five years later. But, while fans of EPL clubs can now partake of a pint in the stadium concourse pre-match and at half-time, only those in hospitality suites can indulge in Scottish grounds.
“It’s a bit of a hurdle. The ban feels like a bit of a throwback to a different time,” said Gordon, who accepts there was once an issue with crowd control but believes that would be less of a factor now.
“I think everybody is mature enough, and the clubs are responsible enough, to be able to manage it so I’d love the government to give football a chance.”
At this stage there is no push to relax the blanket ban on alcohol in view of the playing area, although that option has been in place at many Champions League and Europa League matches across the continent since 2018. FIFA permitted it at the most recent World Cup, in Russia. And, Gordon says there are several good reasons to relax the current constraints in Scottish grounds that stretch beyond fairness.
“Give football clubs a chance to at least test it; maybe we do a two or three-year test,” he said.
“If we have a game that we know is going to be difficult in terms of crowds etc, ok, no alcohol. But a game against St Mirren, for example, there’s not going to be an issue.
“Why can’t people come and enjoy football the way they would enjoy rugby, or any other event that they go to? Why are football fans signalled as not able to be responsible?
“My feeling is that if we ease up, people are not going to consume as much alcohol before the game if they know they can come here and have a beer.
“Instead they go to the pub, they stay there until two minutes to three, and then they rush over here to the ground. I think we can do better than that. I don’t really understand it.
“Certainly in the United States there would have been a class action suit on it already - because it is just discriminatory.”
At odds with the authorities over alcohol consumption in stadiums, he is willing to work with the government when it comes to the new vaccine passports for those attending matches with crowds of 10,000-plus.
“It’s a challenge, but spot checks seem to be a very workable solution, otherwise it would take us three hours to get people into the ground and that would be terrible.
“Ultimately it’s a public health issue and we need to be part of the solution.”