In the United Kingdom many people assume that you cannot smoke at a football match for legal reasons, however that’s not entirely true.  The actual law relies on whether there is a roof or not, and as most football stadiums don’t have a full roof – technically you could smoke there.  This of course can be overridden by the owners of the stadiums who can apply their own ban.

All the teams in the football league have implemented a ban on smoking in their grounds, in part due to the lessons learnt from the Bradford Fire disaster.  It is actually policy of the league itself so I don’t think any team would be allowed to overrule this, not that there is likely any appetite to do that.

If you move down outside the leagues, into the conference there is no direct stipulation on smoking at grounds.  Many of the teams at this level have extremely small stands and in part are merely pitches with open air standing room around the outside.  However most clubs even at  this level have also implemented the no-smoking ban, in order to create a family friendly atmosphere.  Some of these clubs do allow some small smoking areas away from fixed seating and enclosed areas, although there’s no legal obligation to do so.

For many fans just like in real life, e-cigarettes are something of a grey area.  You’re likely to see them at many grounds, but don’t be surprised if you’re told no if you do attempt to smoke them.  It’s argued that football stadiums should be completely exempt from these restrictions because they are not an enclosed area.  However the reality is that most public places would ban cigarettes anyway for the health and family benefits for the supporters.

The other counter argument is that if people are not allowed to smoke somewhere then they’re likely to just smoke in places like toilets where potentially the fire risk is greater.  Fans often complain that removing the chance to smoke spoils their enjoyment of the game.  You can see some evidence of following attendances in the lower leagues, I presume where people are smoking at home while watching Match of the Day onlinereference here.

Most fans now though have accepted the fact that they can’t smoke in most public and entertainments places.   Even in the lower leagues, being able to watch a football game without smoke blowing in your face certainly adds to enjoyment.  I do wonder why some many places are against having a small corner where smokers can enjoy a smoke though, if it wasn’t bothering anyone else, I’m fairly certain no-one would care that much.

John Williams

Author of – How to Watch UK TV Online in Spain


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