Donald MacLeod: Fans are punching players, coins are hitting managers and we are talking about pouring drink into the mix?

Post Thumbnail

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell says lifting the ban on the sale alcohol at football matches in Scotland is “definitely a conversation worth having”.

After the atrocious events that took place at Tynecastle this week in the Edinburgh derby between Hearts and Hibs, it should be a very short conversation . . . “Should we?” “No!”

It might have been Halloween, but the only treat was not the frenetic football being played on the pitch, but that no-one, either on the pitch or in the terraces, was seriously injured, burnt, blinded or even killed.

Bevvied up ghouls, from both sets of supporters, created merry hell and mayhem on the terraces and beyond.

In the cauldron of maroon and green hatred, eerily lit by the smoke bombs and flares that were regularly being thrown on to the pitch and, more worryingly, at each other, the stadium looked like a warzone.

The Hearts keeper, Zdenek Zlamal, was almost levelled with a punch from a rival fan, and two assistant referees were struck with missiles, probably coins.

Indeed, coins seemed to fall like metal hailstones throughout the match and, in the final moments of this supposed game of football, Hibs manager Neil Lennon had to receive medical attention after he was felled when he was struck on the chin by a coin.

It was a sickening, mindless, act of thuggery – and cowardice – which, if it had hit him five or six inches higher, could have taken his eye out.

It was the second violent assault to have happened to Neil Lennon at Tynecastle. The first being when he was the Celtic manager and was attacked by a so-called Hearts fan in 2011.

And yet, despite the fact that sporadic battles between rival fans broke out across the city into the wee small hours, the SFA’s Mr Maxwell and other senior figures within the game want to consider revoking the ban on alcohol sales at matches.

It seems they are more interested in profit than safety and would rather see the coins that are being hurled at officials, players and managers fill the tills in their club bars instead.

Talk about pouring petrol on a fire.

Have they forgotten the disgraceful scenes of booze-fuelled carnage and violence that took place at Hampden at the end of the 2016 Scottish Cup Final?

Surely they recall the thousands of Hibs and Rangers fans running on to the pitch and battling it out with each other?

It was an ugly, dark day of shame in the history of our beautiful game.

The SFA, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government are considering using Euro 2020 games at Hampden as a pilot to start selling alcohol on the terraces at matches.

Arguing that we would be the only nation not selling booze at games.

So what? Other nations do not have the problems associated with alcohol-fuelled violence Scotland has.

And fans, if they are desperate for a drink, can imbibe before and after the game, just not during it.

And as for improving the fans’ experience, well there is nothing worse than having to continually get up and down out of your seat for those hammered fans who have a dicky bladder and need the toilet every five minutes.

Mr Maxwell says the legislation hasn’t been reviewed since the 1980s, when the alcohol ban was rightly brought in after rioting broke out between Celtic and Rangers fans at the end of the 1980 Scottish Cup Final.

Well it’s clear to me, 28 years later, that fans, particularly a small, hardcore element, have not moved on.

These cretins are still firmly rooted in the past. They are still as bigoted, racist, small-minded and violent as they always have been, if not more so now they have social media to vent their spleens.

They are just as hateful and lacking in morals and decency as they ever were.

They also cannot handle their drink. So, before we open the floodgates to booze for these Neanderthals of the terraces, let’s first make sure they have been dragged from their caves, shown the red card and thrown in the slammer.

They should be named, shamed and banned from every ground in the country.

Given the enormity at the task, that will take at least another 28 years. Until that time, I say keep the ban in place.

At the very least your local, possibly struggling, publican will be pleased to see you.