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Sport and Alcohol; a marriage made in heaven or hell?

Link: Cook fifty fails to brighten rainy day - News Archive - Latest News - Lord's.

Thanks to the generosity of a client, I spent yesterday - my last full day in England for a while - at the very heart of Englishry; Lord's Cricket Ground. Although little cricket was played, I had a great day in the company of clients and business friends. I am ashamed to admit that I had never been before. It's particularly embarrassing as my paternal grandfather was a keen cricket fan, a lifelong member of Lancashire CC and played - pre-war- for our own (very very minor) county.

Lord's is a charming place; far more clean, modern and relaxed than any other sports venue I have visited. The staff were friendly, helpful and enthusiastic about cricket. There were bars everywhere doing brisk business, yet there was no hint of trouble. I have noticed the same thing at Rugby internationals. Alcohol flows freely, but with no consequent (or rather subsequent) misbehaviour As a lifelong fan of "the beautiful game", my heart sank at the disgraceful behaviour of Rangers fans at the match in Manchester this week. It sank even more at the inevitable cries for alcohol sales to be restricted during games. Incapability Brown was on the case immediately with measures targetted at anyone but the people to blame;

The Prime Minister said that the Home Secretary would explore with police how better to implement powers to stop people drinking in public in such situations.

Thousands of people had a drink in Manchester without turning to violence. I suspect that many of those who turned to violence did so without having a drink. Alcohol is simply not relevant to this issue, as cricket and rugby fans regularly prove. Why is this "collective punishment" tolerable? How can even a supposed "libertarian Tory" like Boris think that banning alcohol from Tube trains is an appropriate measure to reduce violence?

Just as alcohol is not the problem, neither is the law. The sickening violence in Manchester (which it is no longer possible in these days of camera-phones and YouTube to blame on a "tiny minority") was unlawful in many ways. The breakdown of social expectations is the problem. I asked my host, a member of the MCC, about the widespread drinking at Lord's. He said that those people who do get drunk, do so in a charming way. You may see someone at Lord's who is not in full control of his limbs, but you won't see him cause any trouble. The fact is that a cricket (or rugby fan) who behaved inappropriately in drink would lose the respect of all around him. Loutish soccer fans, on the other hand,  set out to earn a different kind of "respect".

Expectations are powerful. Children tend to behave in accordance with the expectations of their parents or teachers. This is largely why the lowering of educational expectations results in pupils leaving school at 18 less able to read, write or spell correctly than an old gentleman of my acquaintance who left school at 12. He was expected to equip himself to support his family in a hard world by the age of 12. The more education he could get in that time, the better he could hope to do. Crushingly little is expected of his modern successors - and the decline in expectations has yet to be arrested. Does it not occur to proponents of "child-centred education" who tailor lessons to a child's attention span, that it is part of their job to train pupils to be able to pay attention for longer?

Holding people legally and socially accountable for their conduct, whether or not they are drunk or otherwise intoxicated, is the most powerful way to modify behaviours. Banning drink will not reduce violence at football games. Rather it will lead to the sort of antics associated with school dances; binge drinking before entering the "dry" zone, or smuggling in intoxicants which are all the more appealing for being contraband.

If we want our fellow-citizens to behave responsibly, we must begin by expecting them to be responsible.  In asking the state to "do something" about every problem, we are behaving like little children wanting mother to make our pain go away. We need to take responsibility for our own actions (including those which follow our drinking or taking more drugs than we can handle). I am a jolly enough drunk, unless I get drunk on vodka. That does not absolve me from responsibility if I drink vodka. Rather, it makes me responsible for the consequences of not choosing whisky or gin. Only if we accept our own responsibilities, are we entitled to expect others to do the same.

The laws of England & Wales are the same at Wembley as they are at Lord's. That they are observed more at the latter than the former has nothing to do with the rules applied or the alcohol consumed and everything to do with social expectations.

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