In November 2021, I had the pleasure of experiencing live football in Europe. Across two weekends, I watched games in Dortmund, Rome, Venice and Milan.
For someone who often goes to watch English football, it was clear to see the difference between going to a stadium in the UK compared to the rest of Europe.
Here is my tales of my experiences of games in Germany and Italy and how these compare to those in England.
The Immediate Comparisons
On October 30th 2021, I woke up in our Dortmund hotel as we walked down to the Signal Iduna Park for a match between two rivals in Borussia Dortmund and FC Köln. In a 3.30pm kick-off local time, anticipation grew as me and my friend Ryan headed to a ground that has become a bucket list ground for many British football fans. From the famous Yellow Wall to the rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone’, as a Liverpool fan I was excited to experience such an event.
We entered the ground and sat in our seat. We immediately noticed a huge difference between English and German football. In Dortmund, you were allowed to drink alcohol and smoke a cigarette in your seat. This is not something you can do in any British football game. This shows how much more trusting the German footballing authorities are compared to those in the UK. This all leads back to the hooligan era of the 1980’s.
In an article from the Guardian, it spoke of how British football fans have not been allowed to view a game with a beer in their hands since 1985. It talks of their being a rise in demands for alcohol to be consumed in the stands, notably from Tracey Crouch MP. She has suggested that there be a pilot ran in League Two and the top division in the National League during her review of footballing governance. Mark Roberts, the policing lead for British football, spoke on the topic.
“We have sadly witness alcohol playing a major part in the violence and disorderly actions displayed at football games. There is an unhealthy relationship between the UK, drink and drugs. This issue may not relate specifically to football, we have seen a link between this sort of behaviour and football.”
In early October, I went to both of the NFL games in London where you can drink in your seats. With the exception of a few idiotic fans at the most recent game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the atmosphere is always good with fans drinking in their seats. The same can be said when going to watch rugby games.
However, I have been to football games at Anfield, Craven Cottage, Stamford Bridge, The Emirates, The Valley and Vicarage Road to name a few in the UK since turning the legal drinking age of 18, where I have always had to have my lager or IPA by the bar and not in my seat.
Why Are Other European Leagues More Lenient?
Last year, the Germany Football League (DFL) set up plans to allow fans back into stadia and one of the features of the documentation was a blanket ban on alcohol in stadiums. 1996 saw European Parliament impose a ban of alcohol at football games after a report on hooliganism. However, judging by my experience watching a Bundesliga match, these proposals never came into fruition.
An article from MLSSoccer.com reports how Germany is beer friendly, with the Bundesliga adopting a beer sponsor in Krombacher. Paulaner is also another alcohol company that have a big involvement, particularly with European football powerhouse Bayern Munich.
Meanwhile, beer and smoking is also allowed at games in Italy but there is a difference.
Me and my friend Nayim went to see Roma play Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt on November 4th 2021 at the Stadio Olimpico before watching two games in the same day on Sunday 7th November. We witnessed Venezia play Roma at the Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium in Venice at 12.30pm local time before heading to Milan to watch AC Milan play Inter Milan at the iconic San Siro later that evening.
Once again, alcohol and cigarettes were allowed to be taken into seats but there is a difference with the alcohol that is served. Whilst we see Germany promote alcohol with Bayern Munich players often spotted at Oktoberfest, Italy only serve alcohol with less than five percent alcohol.
This is most likely to be an attempt to limit the actions of the Italian football ultras that still exist. When I was at the three Italian matches, particularly in Rome and Milan, there was an edge to the atmosphere, which was somewhat intimidating.
Whilst Germany had more of a community feel and carnival spirit, the games I witnessed in Italy showcased a whole different level of passion. Fans of Bodo had to be separated by a glass screen, with Roma fans eager to confront them. It definitely felt more than just passion and this aggression is presumedly a factor in why they cannot serve strong alcoholic beverages. Last summer’s European Championships saw Italy and England face off in the final. Neither fan base covered themselves in glory, with the English fans drawing the most attention. This showed why neither fanbase can be trusted to drink alcohol at football games.
The Premier League may be the biggest league in the world, but they seem far more behind the times than some of their European neighbours.