FINALLY, A SPECIALIST SUBJECT FOR THE FIVER
Friday’s news that the ban on fans guzzling amber pints of foaming shaft and other forms of electric soup in the stands at football matches could soon be lifted prompted an array of predictable responses on social media disgraces. First out of the traps were the Fun Police, that body of self-appointed moral guardians who believe that because they feel no compulsion to enjoy a bevvy while enjoying themselves at the football, any other grown adults who do are obviously some sort of anti-social dipsomaniac who should consider hot-footing it to their local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Others tut-tutted for different reasons, pointing out that giving people free rein to get their booze on either side of half-time during matches would lead to scenes of extreme drunkenness and the kind of loutish anti-social behaviour of a kind not seen since … ah, the Not Euro 2020 final at Wembley, where fans were not allowed to drink in their own or whoever else’s seats they happened to be in but a good number somehow managed to have an astronomical blood alcohol level anyway. Other more sensible folk welcomed the news, even if the sale of ale for the duration of matches means more time spent away from the game either getting the drinks in or at the toilets, causing all manner of inconvenience to fellow fans who have to stand up and let you scooch past as you go about your business. Then there were fans of teams from the fifth tier downwards, long trusted to drink during games and shocked to learn that those in divisions above are not afforded the same courtesy.
Lifting football’s 36-year ban on fans farming the foam during matches is expected to be among the key recommendations of Tracey Crouch’s fan-led review next month, a wheeze in which the MP will push for a pilot scheme to keep the shutters up and the bar-staff at National League and League Two clubs busy manning the pumps for the duration of games. All going well, it would subsequently be extended to the divisions above, where clubs are not as reliant on bar receipts to keep their heads above water. “Take a club like Dulwich Hamlet, in National League South,” Crouch told the Times. “Its revenue is generated through its refreshments. If it gets promoted to the National League Premier [which operates under the alcohol ban], it effectively stops generating that revenue during a game. They said openly in evidence to us that they cannot afford to get promoted because of the rules around alcohol.”
While The Fiver has no strong feelings either way on the alcohol ban because there are far more pressing fan concerns which need to be addressed, if we were to write a strong polemic on the subject, we’d probably come down on the side of any development that helps eliminate nanny-statism and allows grown adults to have a beer if they feel like having a beer. The Fiver has been to – and been drunk at – enough football matches to know that drinkers are gonna drink and if they wish to glug to the point where their knees buckle and they can no longer see, they will do exactly that whether or not the bar is open from first to final whistle. Now pardon us as we oil our beard and make our way to Champion Hill, purveyors of the finest modestly priced triple-brewed and oak-aged 26% Moldovan chocolate and peanut butter stout suffused with fennel your favourite daily football email has ever imbibed.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You couldn’t trust Mike Jones with Manchester United v Liverpool. He didn’t have the skill set, he didn’t have the experience, the players wouldn’t respect him. He’d be near the top of the merit table because if you’re refereeing Southampton v Watford, last on Match of the Day, the exposure is zero” – Mark Clattenburg sticks the boot into a former Premier League colleague for no good reason other than perhaps he needs work now he’s back from Saudi Arabia and China.
“Every day in my dotage I search frantically for footie entertainment value on the idiot box. Yesterday, however, I began to question my research parameters, wasting two valuable hours watching ageing defensive midfielders at Old Trafford blatantly undress opponents and knee them in the unmentionables, as Jon Moss emphatically enforced the new free-flowing regulations. However, I did have a brief but strong deja vu experience, thinking I was back in my prime years during the 1960s and 1970s, trying to emulate the no-nonsense enforcement exemplars of the day” – John Weldon.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … John Weldon.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The government could ban foreign betting firms from sponsoring UK shirts, but not our brave domestic gambling companies.
It’s not getting much better for Ronald Koeman at Barcelona after they were held 0-0 at Cádiz. “I’m not happy, of course, because we had four or five clear chances and we didn’t score any goals,” he tooted. “What I take away is the attitude, not my own personal situation. Because if we win it looks like we carry on, and if not we look for another coach – and that’s a question for you.”
In bad news for Nat Phillips, this season’s Liverpool knack crisis has been shifted into midfield, with Naby Keïta joining Harvey Elliott and Thiago Alcântara in the treatment room with unspecified-gah. “It’s nothing too serious but it will keep him out of the next game and potentially a little longer,” sighed Jürgen Klopp.
Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjær reckons Klopp’s January intervention regarding how many penalties Manchester United receive has impacted the number that his team are awarded. Because that’s clearly how these things work. “There was a certain manager who was starting to worry about us getting penalties and after that it seems like the decisions are more difficult to give [to us],” sighed Solskjær.
Saturday’s United v Aston Villa match will clash with Chelsea v Manchester City as a 12.30pm BST kick-off because indie janglers the Courteeners are headlining a gig at the cricket club next door.
And, obviously, Michael Owen has been appointed as ambassador of the new Pakistan Football League. “In 15, 20 years, if the right things are put into place and hopefully Pakistan with their manpower, it may happen that [they] could be more competitive than they currently are on the world stage,” he cheered.
STILL WANT MORE?
Mike Dean’s ego colliding with Cristiano Ronaldo’s is one of the 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend.
Brighton forward Danielle Carter gets her chat on with Suzanne Wrack about her life-changing ACL knacks, the difficulty in leaving Arsenal and her WSL hopes.
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