Alcohol and sport – is a boozy culture shutting out British Asians?

January 2023 | 7 minutes

Does the drinking culture in sport restrict opportunities for British Asians?

Alcohol and sport in this country seem to go together like Batman and Robin, cheese and pickle, or any other inseparable pairing you can think of. Alcohol sales and alcohol advertising help pay the bills at clubs and stadiums. Pints and prosecco lubricate the celebrations and commiserations – all the way from the cheap seats to the hospitality suites, from the village green to the Principality Stadium.

People often think of alcohol as a great includer, a social leveller. “Come and join us for a drink”, we say, as we seek to build friendships and professional partnerships. But what about the people that alcohol excludes? There are all sorts of reasons that someone might avoid alcohol – personal, medical cultural, or simple preference. And one significant group of people in the UK who tend to be non-drinkers are British Asians, who make up nearly 10% of the population of England and Wales. They’re a diverse group and they’re not universally teetotal, but they are often attached (at least culturally) to faith traditions – Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism – in which alcohol use is not the norm. So, what happens when people from these communities take part in the UK’s famously boozy world of sport?

The evidence suggests that the experience is not always positive. The 2022 Changing the Boundaries report on Scottish cricket found “persistent use of alcohol as part of post-match and social evenings, with a lack of consideration for different religious practices and beliefs”, with Asian players facing a wall of indifference when trying to explain to white teammates why they didn’t drink: “It still doesn’t get through to them”.

There’s quite a bit of evidence that the findings of Changing the Boundaries are not exceptional; but we’d like to find out more – to understand whether the drinking culture in sport is restricting the opportunities for British Asians, and what kinds of changes could make things more inclusive. To be clear, we’re not suggesting that all sports clubs need to shutter up the bar for good.

But there is plenty of evidence from programmes like Good Sports in Australia that clubs can attract more participants and volunteers, and more funding, by creating a welcoming and safe environment where alcohol doesn’t dominate.

To get the ball rolling, we’re working with researchers from Magpie in Leeds on a survey of British Asian people’s experiences of taking part in sport – as players and/or spectators – and of what role alcohol has played in those experiences, whether that’s been bad or good.

We want to know how welcome people feel at sports venues, how they navigate drinking situations, and whether they think the people who run sport could do more to make British Asians feel more welcome.

We’re focussing initially on two sports: cricket and rugby union. They’re both sports that have sometimes had a troubled relationship with alcohol, and ones where alcohol can be consumed in view of the pitch (which may be one reason for some of the alcohol-related trouble). We aim to look at more sports in the future, building on the findings on this initial research project.

So, if you consider yourself British Asian – or Asian British/Welsh/English or Scottish – and you’re interested in sport, we’d like to hear your views. The online survey should only take 10 or 15 minutes to complete, and you can access it here. If you have any questions about the survey, you can contact us here.

Complete the online survey

Access the survey here