11 arrests, two assault charges, 27 ejections for intoxication and 47 people refused entry for being drunk, not to mention five infringement notices for refusal’s to leave the premises. The statistics from a politically charged protest or narcotics induced music festival packed with hormonal teenagers, you might think.
The reality was the carnage resulting from Glasgow Celtic’s recent visit to Sydney to play the far from notorious Central Coast Mariners of Australia’s A-League. The Bhoys were most certainly back in town. And they didn’t come quietly.
As an Englishman in Australia, the whole scenario fascinated me. Here was an exhibition game, or ‘trial’ game as my Australian counterparts call it, that was supposed to showcase one of the world’s most famous football teams. The outcome left me questioning the right to enjoy a beer or two whilst viewing the world’s favorite sport.
Scottish football ‘fans’ are no strangers to making headlines. Today in Scotland alcohol is banned completely from the premises, a penalty first introduced after an infamous pitch invasion in 1980 after the Scottish Cup Final between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers. Celtic won the game 1-0 and the scenes that followed as they paraded the trophy in front of their fans.
European regulations are less stringent but far from consistent. In English stadiums you can buy a pint of the amber juice from various bars inside the venue, but you cannot take a drink into the stands or onto the terraces. Therefore half-time intervals resemble Wilder Beast charging across the barren Serengeti for a water hole to quench their thirst. In Spain non-alcoholic beer is served alongside full strength and the same applies for Germany.
British fans are historically seen by their counterparts as the flag-bearers for drunken behavior. So much so that in the European Cup Final between Germany’s Bayern Munich and England’s Aston Villa, an unprecedented experiment was born when Villa’s fans were served non-alcoholic beer and their opposing fans full strength. However it made no fundamental difference, and scientists and the authorities were stunned as Villa’s fans were as boisterous as ever displaying ‘drunk’ behavior.
I could not help but smile when I read that an English football fan was left disgusted after a visit to a game in the Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands when he made the horrific discovery that the 4 pints he had inhaled were actually non-alcoholic.
What must also be considered is the fact that supporters can drink their selves into oblivion before and after a game in bars and pubs on their merry stagger to the Stadium. The risk of any country enforcing alcohol bans in close proximity to any venue would be straying dangerously close to nanny-state territory.
Ultimately there is nothing funny about the behavior of the fans last week, Scottish or otherwise. Perhaps the Scottish clan just could not hold their excitement at being outside of the totalitarian restraints of match days in their land. But to claim to be a football fan and hiding behind ‘passion for your club’ when you are so intoxicated it is likely your vision of the beautiful game is blurred, is simply pathetic.
Despite the arguments and endless debate that show no sign of ending, there is no clear solution. What is certain is that the authorities that enforced the ban in Scotland in 1980 will be kicking back with their lemonades and wearing their ‘told you so’ expressions for a while longer.