Footy fans warned over pint throwing ‘assault’

By Poppleston Allen, licensing solicitors

- Last updated on GMT

Get onside with the rules: Poppleston Allen issues warning over excessive fan behaviour (credit: Getty/skynesher)
Get onside with the rules: Poppleston Allen issues warning over excessive fan behaviour (credit: Getty/skynesher)

Related tags Social responsibility Pubco + head office Health and safety Licensing Legislation

Licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen have warned pubs that football fans who throw pints when the on-screen action gets exciting could be committing assault.

The information comes just days before the England v Wales World Cup showdown on Tuesday 29 November and on the day Wales face Iran and England play against USA on Friday 25 November.

Millions of football fans will flock to pubs to witness the matches and while fans, licensees and staff may consider themselves familiar with the rules and licensing law, a major tournament crowd brings about plenty of points to consider – especially thanks to the latest craze of throwing drinks around to celebrate goals.

Poppleston Allen​ has explained in a new Q&A what everyone should be aware of when hosting World Cup viewing events and how the law concerns specific aspects of fan behaviour.

Q: Are fans allowed to throw their pints around or not?

A: There is no specific licensing reason why not.

In terms of criminal activity, clearly if an object such as a glass or even a polycarbonate is thrown deliberately, that would be an assault or an attempted assault.

Throwing plastics full of liquid in the air, which may hit someone, but probably not cause damage, is not likely to be a criminal activity, but could be regarded as reckless, which can be criminal. If it is part of a generally aggressive group behaviour it could be a public order offence.

However, in practice, operators must strike a balance between running their premises responsibly, with a view to preventing crime and disorder, and allowing natural exuberance, which is sometimes translated into throwing lots of beer in the air if a goal is scored by England or Wales or, indeed, any other country which fans are supporting.

It may be more inflammatory to seek to prevent this practice and, therefore, general advice is if it is good natured and customers are not offended, then no intervention would be necessary or sensible.

Q: Who is responsible for fan behaviour outside or of the premises?

A: There are mixed views on this. If fans leave a licensed premises and cause disruption or commit crimes, and it has been proved (through CCTV for example) that they were drinking on the premises, the police are likely to hold the premises partially responsible.

However, it is difficult, if fans leave in a poor frame of mind (eg, their team loses) then behave badly, to argue that the premises is indeed responsible if the fans have left in a well-behaved manner.

Q: What are the potential consequences if this leads to complaints?

A: This could lead to enforcement against the premises, in the form of a meeting and, possibly then if it is repeated, with a view to restrictions being placed on the licence either voluntarily or via the review process.

These could be conditions specifically addressing the cause of the problems, and may include restrictions on groups, not showing live international football, customer dress, no drinks offers, etc.

Q: Can pubs stay open late to celebrate a win?

A: Pubs can only stay open either within the terms of their premises licence or a temporary event notice, if it has been granted for longer hours.

Q: Can pubs have a say on whether fans can wear football shirts or not?

A: Yes – a pub can decide absolutely (as long as it does not discriminate on race or other grounds) who comes into its premises or not, and so a ban on football shirts would be lawful.

Q: Can pubs decorate their buildings with flags and can these be attached to neighbouring lampposts, etc?

A: Pubs can absolutely decorate their buildings but should not strictly put flags or other paraphernalia on property belonging to others without the owner’s permission.

Q: Is there a limit on the amount of people allowed inside a premises depending on its size?

A: Yes, if there is not a limit on the premises licence (probably not) then there should be a fire risk assessment for the safe occupancy inside.

If the premises are going to be changed, for example by removing furniture, then it may be possible to have more people in, but the safe number will be dependent on the existing fire safety routes, including the number and width.

If an operator is considering having a larger group than its current fire risk assessment allows, then it ought to separately do a risk assessment for the changed operating style, to make sure that the number is a safe one.

Q: Can pubs sell paid for tickets for matches?

A: Yes, that is perfectly lawful to do so, and is becoming increasingly common practice, such as booking tables for sporting events generally.

Visit​ for more information.

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