How Dare We: shut the pubs and spare Newcastle’s horses

John McCormick:
John McCormick: drinking to a safe derby

A couple of weeks ago, after travel restrictions on the Tyne-Wear derby were lifted, I made a comment that rather than seeking to punish bona fide supporters who wanted to support their team the police should apply to close all pubs within a three-mile radius of the ground. My point was that the element which caused bother after the last Newcastle game had spent the afternoon drinking and had then gone out looking for trouble. By targeting pubs rather than fans the police would address the issue at its roots and although some innocent landlords would lose out those who had broken the law by serving drink to already-drunken fans would get their just desserts


I didn’t get it quite right. Northumbria Police reported yesterday (20th Jan) that “out of the 156 arrested, 57 said they had been to the match and 33 were season ticket holders” and  “in total 93 people were charged with offences following the derby in April, with 17 cases still being progressed through the courts”. (http://www.northumbria.police.uk/news_and_events/news/details.asp?id=92120). I don’t know how many of those 93 were at the match but at least 36 of them were somewhere else during the game.

Which brings me back to the pubs and the landlords. About one hundred non-attenders were arrested after the April derby and a minimum of 36 non-attenders were charged with an offence. How many of them had been drinking, and how culpable were pub landlords in allowing them to become inebriated? If such numbers had been arrested on any normal afternoon there would be hell to pay, pub licensees would be held to account, and rightly so.

Of course, there might be another side to it. These aggressive individuals might have bought their beer at an off-licence, some may even have been stone-cold sober, and pub landlords might not be at fault. What do you think?

Jake: 'can't they drink without turning into neanderthals??'
Jake: ‘can’t they drink without turning into neanderthals??’

A report published last week by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/01/03/jech-2013-203287.full) found that pubs frequently do serve drink to people who are clearly under the influence. The more poorly-managed and problematic the establishment the greater the likelihood of drunks being served but over 60% of even the best-managed premises they sampled served drink to apparently intoxicated people.

The authors noted that UK law prohibits sale of alcohol to anyone already drunk, yet convictions for doing this are extremely rare, with only three in 2010. Even though the LJMU study wasn’t undertaken in Newcastle, and it wasn’t undertaken in the afternoon, its findings and conclusions should give Northumbria Police, indeed police everywhere, food for thought:

“Although our study focused on one city, a lack of prosecutions for sales to drunks throughout England suggests this is typical of nightlife environments nationally… …with such widespread disregard for the law, police may consider the task of identifying and prosecuting drunken sales overwhelming. However, in other countries, illegal alcohol sales to drunks have been significantly reduced through combined enforcement and awareness-raising based on findings from studies such as this. Importantly, just a few prosecutions for selling alcohol to drunks in an area could change the norm of flouting the law.”

So there you have it. Crack down on pubs that break the law and people will find it harder to get drunk. It won’t stop antisocial behaviour completely but it will help, and law-abiding citizens who just want to support their team will be better able to do so.


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4 thoughts on “How Dare We: shut the pubs and spare Newcastle’s horses”

  1. As always the majority get tarred with the same brush as the bone headed minority. Maybe the answer is stiffer sentences for those that really step out of line , but I remember some on this forum objecting to horsepunchers year at Her Majesty’s pleasure . I can understand both Malcolm’s and Johns points on this to be honest. The trouble in Newcastle City centre was congregated in a small area and if the pubs had being shut they would have been spread about in different , local boozers and not feeding of each others aggression .I hazzard a guess that most had travelled in from the outer regions of Tyneside and beyond to soak up the atmosphere . I also agree with Malcolm , if I had no interest in a match but wanted a meal or a pint why shouldn’t I be able to? Saying that, for example ,if I was a neutral and I new there was an intense derby going on like ours or Celtic/Rangers etc i wouldn’t want to be in a three mile radius of the ground.Maybe the answer is to keep the pubs open but restrict non ticket holding fans to their locals and out of that three mile radius? Great in theory, impossible to enforce and we’re back to square one, there is no obvious solution or the majority would agree on it.

  2. I did say I didn’t get it quite right.

    In my original post I also said there would be an uproar if police tried to close pubs indiscriminately, or words to that effect. Of course you’re right but you also agree that pubs should obey the law. And who should ensure they do?

    • “Of course you’re right but you also agree that pubs should obey the law. And who should ensure they do? ”

      Obviously the publicans themselves, and then the police when they ignore the law, should try to enforce it. But that’s the same with any situation is it not?

      If only someone with power could look at how football matches are policed, the amount of money which goes on policing games and the subsequent diversion of resources away from areas where it could be utilised more effectively and do it objectively. I’ve been to many away game where the threat of trouble has been minimal but hundreds of police in riot gear have been deployed just in case.

      I have travelled on SAFCSA coaches to Sunderland from the Midlands when we have played teams like Leicester in the League Cup and been escorted by police right down the A19, A1, M18 and M1 until we entered Nottinghamshire. Obviously these escorts were intended for away fans travelling home but what a waste of money.

      I understand the point of your article and am playing devil’s advocate, but for me I think it is a dangerous precedent to apply blanket regulations which inconvenience the majority because of the threat of a minority, which is why I also oppose the idea of bubble buses etc.

  3. Closing all pubs because of the actions of a minority is no different to cancelling the match because of a few idiots or trying to restrict entry to the ground to those who have been forced to travel on official transport.

    Individuals are responsible for their own actions and whilst I agree that responsible landlords should not serve people who are obviously really drunk, closing a quiet backstreet boozer or a Harvester where families and the elderly go for their Sunday carvery, two and a half miles from the city centre is more than a bit heavy handed.

    Whilst I will defend the rights of law abiding fans to attend matches safely, I will also defend the rights of responsible law abiding people to enjoy a quiet drink on a Sunday lunchtime.

    I’m not saying there’s an easy solution to the problems caused by idiots with a tendency to aggressive behaviour but simplistic solutions rarely do anything other than create a different set of problems.

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