Fury at Floodlit alcohol ban

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Maiden Castle will continue to enforce a rule banning unlicensed alcohol from floodlit cup matches, with only drinks purchased at the new bar in Durham’s principal sports centre being permitted on the premises.

This policy was originally implemented in February 2022 in consultation with last year’s sports club captains and college officers in response to a number of disappointing crowd behaviour issues during last season, according to the University.

The rule change – which Palatinate Sport understands will cover all floodlit matches – comes specifically after the notorious spectator ban imposed on University College, Hatfield College, and Van Mildert College following supposed poor fan behaviour during the last academic year.

To enforce this provision, the University has started to employ stewards who will be checking the possessions of fans when entering the stands around Maiden Castle.

It is unknown whether there will be increased numbers for clashes in the later stages of the respective tournaments, or what powers these stewards have been handed by Team Durham.

This policy was originally implemented in February 2022 in consultation with last year’s sports club captains and college officers

One of the first fixtures to be played under the shadow of this drinking restriction was a football match between Grey College and St Aidan’s College.

In response to this measure, both colleges staged a joint protest against the rule change. Various banners were displayed throughout the 3-2 affair, claiming that the limitation promotes “toxic drinking” and “prices (students) out”, whilst also putting them “at risk”. Some expect that this will force students wishing to drink at matches without the necessary funds to pre-drink excessively, and potentially do so to a dangerous extent.

Moreover, it has also been hinted that this is merely a ploy by the University to ensure they gain substantial profits from the often-popular tournaments at the expense of students.

On the protest, St Aidan’s JCR President, Joseph Eaton stated: “Fans feel like they’re being priced out of floodlit matches because they can no longer bring their own drinks from home.

“For example, we have students that want to get involved, that want to have a drink and support their team who can’t afford to drink at the bar and now can’t bring whatever cans they have lying about their house for the match. I very much get the feeling that my students see it just as an extra needless cost that’s being passed on to students.”

 He added: “These rules make it more likely that students will pre-drink to unhealthy levels or chop their drinks from home at the gate. I’d rather my students enjoyed their drinks over 90 minutes instead of 90 seconds. That’s the toxic drinking culture that we don’t want to see, not students having a few cans over the football.”

Pictured: Banners were on display throughout the match.

Spectators also sought to voice their objections to this rule change, with one anonymous Aidan’s supporter saying: “Floodlit is such a good time of the year because we can get the entire college together for a free event. If students want to drink, they do so cheaply by buying their own alcohol. Maiden Castle are now asking students to pay their bar prices rather than off licence prices. That’s unfair on many students now paying extortionate accommodation costs.

 “This new policy promotes a toxic drinking culture. Students will not stop drinking for floodlit games, so, instead of drinking during the game, they are now trying to drink as much as possible before the game as they know they can’t take drinks in.

“What on earth do the University expect with their Maiden Castle only booze policy? Do they really believe students will want to walk back and forth between 3G1 and Maiden Castle bar every time they want a pint?

“It’s an entirely financial driven policy (as it) forces students to buy drinks at their overpriced bar. If this really was to try to encourage students to behave better, they would say don’t come to Maiden Castle bar either.”

As mentioned, this rule change comes as a result of widely reported fan misbehaviour during the last academic year, which led to spectators from three colleges being banned from attending floodlit cup fixtures.

What on earth do the University expect with their Maiden Castle only booze policy?

 In a statement to Palatinate Sport, University College Rugby Football Club – who played in a now infamous fixture against Hatfield and were subsequently forced to play without fans in the proceeding rounds – said: “[We] find the decision ludicrous.

“We were forced to play fixtures with no fans last year as punishment already and now the university want to impose an extreme and ill-thought-out measure on everyone. It will only encourage people to pre-drink or sneak in their alcohol.”

It is thus expected that such displays of opposition to the new rules will not simmer down soon.

Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment at Durham University, said: “The atmosphere created at College Floodlit fixtures is generally very positive and the behaviour of most of the spectators is outstanding.

“Nevertheless, we did have to address some issues last year, and this is one of a number of measures designed to help ensure the safety of staff and officials, and to raise the overall standards of spectator behaviour.”

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