Police forces in Manchester and London put retailers on the frontline tackling crime and disorder during the World Cup by pressuring them to ban alcohol sales.
In Manchester town centre, retailers were asked to not sell alcohol in the afternoon on match days. In Camden, London, retailers were told that they should not advertise alcohol or sell glass containers for five-and-a-half-hour windows covering the games.
In a letter from the police authority to Camden shop owners, they said that the measures would ensure “complying with your obligation in relation to the licensing objectives”.
Former police officer and Licensing Matters director Gill Sherratt told Retail Express: “It’s unfair and total nonsense. No matter how it is phrased, this is a voluntary measure, but there is a veiled threat. We’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s an overreaction because the police are scared. They don’t have the manpower, so they want retailers to do it for them.”
Five retailers in Camden told Retail Express that they would not be following the police’s advice.
Bernadette Rastegar’s Lakeland Grocers store in Manchester is in a residential area that falls just within the town centre ban. She said: “We felt like we had very little option. Not only was it absolutely ridiculous, it doesn’t even make sense. The ban began at 2pm but ended at 9pm, exactly when 8,000 football fans poured out of the official screening event and into the town centre.”
Mital Morar’s Ancoats General Store in Manchester falls outside of the restricted alcohol area, but warned that the request would have a serious impact on those affected. “The World Cup is a huge boost for our store, not just for the alcohol sales, but for the related purchases that come with
it,” he said.
A statement from Greater Manchester Police ahead of the England semi-final said: “We want the public to be able to come to Manchester and enjoy the atmosphere safely, and this request is part of the policing operation aiming to achieve that.”
Multiples including Morrisons were understood to be “working together with Manchester Police” by following the sales restrictions.
How would an alcohol ban during football tournaments affect your store?
“If it was our store, we wouldn’t be very happy about it. We are already dictated to by various parties on how we sell a lot of different products, even energy drinks. It feels like convenience store owners are increasingly being asked to do the police’s job for them, and it’s not on. We already have enough on our plates without this.”
Joey Duhra, Premier Jules Convenience Store, Shropshire
“Our sales haven’t spiked much during the World Cup, so we wouldn’t miss out on the additional sales. I feel it’s a shame to pick on one specific sport and geographical area, but it’s understandable if those areas have problems with hooliganism. We don’t have that sort of problem here, so it really would not serve a purpose in our case if they had the ban in our area.”
Abada Akhtar, Premier Smeaton Stores, Kirkcaldy, Fife
“We would be very disappointed if the ban was also put on alcohol sales in our area. We pay so much in taxes, and it’s very unfair that we have to pay the price for what a minority group is doing. It’s unfair for us and will affect our business. There are other, better solutions to tackle hooliganism, and this is not an issue we are dealing with in our area.”
Bay Bashir, Bellevue Convenience, Middlesbrough