On the sidelines? Exploring how alcohol may present a barrier to British Asians engaging in sport

13 July 2023

Alcohol Change UK commissioned Magpie to explore the attitudes to, and experiences of, British Asians (a multi-ethnic group of British citizens who are of Asian descent, comprising predominantly British Muslims and Hindus) in watching and participating in cricket and rugby union, specifically examining how a culture of drinking may present a barrier for this group and a source of exclusion.

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Executive summary

The research papers identified focus on how alcohol features in cricket, or in sports more generally.

Magpie did not identify any papers that focus specifically on rugby, although the challenges that alcohol presents for cricket are likely to be similar for rugby.

  • Social alcohol drinking is embedded within every level of cricket, from youth and amateur to professional sport.
  • There is research evidence of a fractured system, with two different cricket cultures, one - with better facilities - involves primarily White players and the other - with poorer facilities - primarily British Asian.
  • Rather than post-match drinking being perceived as problematic, the blame is placed on people who do not participate, who are viewed as self-segregating.
  • A drinking culture can also act as a barrier to both children’s participation in sport and the number of British Asians in coaching positions.
  • As well as alcohol consumption, there are a number of other barriers to Muslim men and women taking part in sport.
  • There are ways in which professional sports clubs can make spectating and participating more inclusive for British Asian fans.


The British Asian population is diverse, with a range of views and attitudes towards and relationships with alcohol.

  • As well as alcohol consumption, respondents also cited cost, time and televised sport as a reason not to attend matches.
  • For some, alcohol is an important part of the matchday experience, while for others it actively deters them from getting involved in cricket or rugby union.
  • The importance of feeling safe, a good atmosphere, family friendly and alcohol-free zones to the match day experience, were reported by fans of cricket and rugby alike.
  • Most respondents don’t want to see alcohol banned from stadia, however zoned seating, alcohol-free and family areas (along with clear signage on expectations in the stadia and at the point of sale) would improve the match day experience for many.
  • The impact of alcohol on cricket was particularly significant. Indeed, nearly a half of British Asian cricket fans (42%) reported that alcohol deters them from attending and nearly three quarters (72%) reported that when there is trouble at matches, it’s usually due to alcohol.
  • Twice as many British Asians believe that alcohol has a detrimental effect on the atmosphere of the game (50%) than those who believe it has a positive effect (25%).
  • Both sports have a structural dependence on revenues from alcohol sales and sponsorship. This brings risk to inclusiveness in the game, and represents a possible barrier to behaviour change. Some participants were sceptical that anything will change given the commercial implications and the perceived absence of other revenue sources. 38% of respondents said that they believed that alcohol protects the financial status of clubs.

Focus groups

No generalisations can be made from the focus group data as participants reported a range of experiences.

  • However, it was noted that perception of heavy drinking cultures could prevent people from attending matches, or playing the sport (particularly cricket) as a result of television and radio coverage showing drunken and rowdy behaviour. Alcohol can have a marginalising effect on players that don’t drink alcohol.
  • Seeing players being marginalised can deter spectators from wanting to play the sport themselves.
  • At matches there is a “tipping point” when people’s behaviour shifts from being fun or exuberant, to being annoying, rowdy, or threatening. This can also lead to racism, sometimes directed at players.
  • There is a difference between spectator experiences at community sports and at a stadium. At a community level, participants talked about how they enjoy watching friends and family members playing.
  • Alcohol is not a large barrier to spectating at community level, but it is more problematic for players. Post-match socialising with a drink is often part of the club culture. Participants had different experiences of this, many negative and uncomfortable.
  • Positively, some participants talked about how they have already seen changes implemented to make cricket more welcoming to people from different cultures. Participants offered a host of ways for professional sports clubs and community clubs to be more welcoming to British Asian people.

Please find the briefing paper on this report in both English and Welsh.