Alcohol and sport: “drinking culture” affects youth health

20140614_175128_resized&cropped3

Building the beer tower at Lord's during England vs Sri Lanka.
Photo: Wendie Norris

We went to Lord’s cricket ground to see England play Sri Lanka recently [14/6/14]. In our Lower Compton stand, the cricket was incidental to the main sport of drinking & talking. When did cricket at Lord’s get like this? Apparently at least since 2011 according to The Guardian’s Barney Ronay:  Sozzled – how English cricket got lost in drink

Our enjoyment was marred by the constant hubbub and noise: you could not hear bat on ball.

A group of young men in front of us, with one prime instigator (who somehow never got caught), in great good humour started a “feed the snake”… plastic beer cups were collected into one stack or beer tower and passed through the stand to be added to, while particpants shouted “feed the snake”. Great cheers would start up from the crowded stand – nothing to do with what was happening on the pitch – but because of these precarious beer towers.  For me, it was amusing only the once: repetitions were distracting and required constant security intervention.

What hit me from the beer towers was how many beers our stand had clearly been through between 11am and 2pm. Aided no doubt by the cardboard drinks holders enabling people to carry at least four pints in one hand. And not just beer… 4 lads behind us went through 3 bottles of champagne in the afternoon’s play.

Who was in the stand? All ages, but our stand was particularly full of young people (mostly lads) in their mid-twenties, good humouredly drinking themselves silly but not aggressive. Just silly enough to lose a sense of proportion and consideration for others in the stand.

Most of the drink on the day was bought at the venue, and there was plenty of advertising sponsorship linked to alcohol. The UK government’s minimum pricing for different drinks (April 6, 2014) to stop extreme discounting of alcohol in England and Wales, wouldn’t have helped at Lords.

Back at work I decided to investigate the health facts behind the “drinking culture” amongst young people and in particular young sports fans.

Continue reading