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Drink responsibly (and legally) at football games

For your average fan, football and alcohol go very well together – clearly the opinion of many attending the World Cup 2018. Jan Gebauer and Marija Mušec of CMS Croatia explain some of the restrictions at home and abroad.

The tradition of alcohol consumption at football games goes way back, as far as the first organised football competitions. People would flock to games, enjoying drinks before, during and after the game (whether in celebration or to drown their sorrows). Alcohol consumption by fans during football games was not seen as problematic during most of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, problems on the football scene, including occasional violent incidents, have given rise to a debate on the control of alcohol consumption.

Indeed, last month, a Moscow government department issued statements that purchasing beer in shops or restaurants within a 2 km radius of the Luzhniki and Otkritie Arena stadiums, as well as the FIFA Fan Zone on Vorobyovy Gory will not be possible on match day and the day before. However, sale and consumption of beer produced by the official FIFA sponsor is allowed both at the stadiums and the fanzones. 

The motivations behind this may be multi-faceted but it is clear that problems associated with football matches are not just a local issue. Across the world, as more and more people flock to football games, some European countries have issued bans on alcohol consumption at football games. In 1996, the European Parliament adopted a report on hooliganism which advocated the ban of alcohol at football games.

In our home country, Croatia, the national legislator also implemented a ban on alcohol sale and consumption during football games in 2003 with the Croatian Law on Prevention of Violence at Sporting Events (the "Law").

According to the Law, consumption and possession of alcohol at a football match is prohibited, unless the national sport federation obtains police authorisation for the sale and distribution of alcohol at a sporting event. Even when this police authorisation is given, certain restrictions and conditions on the consumption of alcohol will apply inside the stadium and in the areas surrounding the stadium.

Fans can consume only alcohol bought at the venue, which must not contain more than 6% alcohol. As a precautionary measure, alcohol must be served in containers that do not splinter and cannot be used as a tool for striking or tossing/throwing. In practice, alcohol is served in plastic containers. These rules also apply to the so-called fan zones. On a more general note, there are also specific laws regulating advertising/promotion of alcohol in electronic media (i.e. TV, radio and electronic publications) and in other media (e.g. newspaper, other press). The provisions for advertising of beer, wine and fruit wines are more liberal than for other types of alcohol.

Recently the football fans around Europe have raised their voices demanding for the lifting or mitigating of the bans. As it turns out, the bans have not yielded the desired results. Recent studies show that alcohol bans at stadiums and on transport had no real effect on reducing the overall intoxication of fans.

Many fans argue that the bans did not stand the test of time for a number of reasons; over the past couple of decades, the profiling of fans who can afford to attend the games, the infrastructure of the modern football stadiums, and general public awareness of these issues have changed. Certain jurisdictions have already taken a more liberal approach, acknowledging that restrictions are not necessarily the most effective way of re-shaping problematic behaviour.

It remains to be seen whether the ban will be totally lifted in the future or if fans will still not be allowed to enjoy a drink during football games. In any case, CMS encourages you to drink responsibly.

Authors

Jan Gebauer
Jan Gebauer
Picture of Marija Musec
Marija Mušec
Partner
Zagreb