Croke Park alcohol rules no issue for true fans


Croke park 2, tags: alcohol impact - CC BY-SA

The decision by organizers of Leinster’s Champion’s Cup semi-final match at Croke Park this weekend to adhere to the stadium’s rules on alcohol consumption has sparked discussions about the impact of such measures on fans.

Renowned journalist Jerry Thornley has weighed in, suggesting that the ban on drinking alcohol in seats during sports matches should “not be a problem for genuine fans.”

Croke Park, the iconic home of Gaelic games, maintains a strict policy that prohibits the consumption of alcohol in seating areas during matches. While alcoholic beverages are still sold within the stadium premises, they must be consumed at designated bar areas and not in the stands.

This regulation stands in contrast to the norms at venues like the RDS or the Aviva Stadium, where Leinster fans are typically allowed to consume alcohol from their seats during home matches.

Thornley, the esteemed rugby correspondent for The Irish Times, firmly believes that the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) rules at Croke Park should “absolutely” be respected.

They can still drink before and during the interval and afterwards – just like GAA fans do,” he asserted, emphasizing that the restrictions do not entirely prohibit alcohol consumption but rather regulate it within the confines of the stadium’s policies.

For the vast majority of the 80,000 people who bought tickets on public sale for this game, there will be genuine rugby fans engaged from the start and it won’t be an issue for them. It’s much more of an issue at Six Nations games in the Aviva Stadium.

Jerry Thornley

However, Thornley acknowledged that the impact of alcohol consumption on other fans is more pronounced during Six Nations games at the Aviva Stadium.

Thornley shared a poignant anecdote highlighting the disruptive nature of excessive alcohol consumption during matches, recounting a story about a man in his 80s who, brought to his first game in decades by his son, had to stand up and sit down 88 times to let people out to buy drinks, leading him to say afterwards “Thanks for the ticket son, but I’m never coming back again.”

Thornley also praised the organizational efficiency of Croke Park’s bar operations, drawing a contrast with the Aviva Stadium. “At half time in Croke Park, it’s really well organized and pints are already 80% poured, ready to go and just need to be topped up – it’s an efficient operation there,” he explained.

In contrast, he cited an anecdote about a catering employee at the Aviva Stadium who was reprimanded for attempting to pre-pour pints ten minutes before the interval, highlighting the disparity in preparation and service between the two venues.

Addressing the broader issue of alcohol consumption during rugby matches, Thornley criticized the increasing “corporate” nature of Six Nations games in recent years.

He cited the significant allocation of tickets to clubs, branches, and sponsors, which often leads to a more relaxed attitude towards alcohol consumption. He added that over 30,000 tickets go to clubs via branches; branches have sponsors and clients they need to reward.

Here is that passage turned into a sentence:

Thornley explained that clubs rely on corporate relationships and ticket sales as a means of generating revenue to sustain their operations, acknowledging the financial pressures faced by rugby clubs with 50 senior and 98 junior clubs costing between 250,000 and 350,000 to run and thus their need to “raise money from somewhere” since “it’s expensive to run a club in this country.


As the debate surrounding alcohol consumption at sports venues continues, Thornley’s perspective underscores the importance of striking a balance between fan experience and adherence to venue policies.

While genuine fans may not find the Croke Park rules overly restrictive, the issue highlights the multifaceted challenges faced by organizers in catering to diverse interests while maintaining a safe and enjoyable environment for all spectators.

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