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Alcohol and sports: no mix in Scotland

A determined government bid to break the link between alcohol and violence at soccer matches is about to be launched in Scotland. Following years of mounting crowd disorder at big soccer and rugby games, the Scottish home affairs minister, Malcolm Rifkind, has introduced a parliamentary bill that would ban alcohol entirely from sporting fields and make it an offense to carry drink on buses traveling to the grounds. Penalties for offenders would be stiff: six months imprisonment, or a L200 ($440) fine, or both.

The government's determination to ban alcohol at big football occasions comes after major outbreaks of crowd violence in Glasgow earlier this year. But clashes between riva supporters are a common occurrence at major games, and plans for the government to step in have been under preparation for more than a year.

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At first it was thought that by separating supporters of contending teams the worst violence could be avoided. But even chicken-wire fences and intense police vigilance proved inadequate.

According to football officials, who generally have welcomed the Rifkind bill , the abuse of alcohol is at the root of many of the worst fights at Scottish sports fields.

Soccer fans are not the only culprits -- and thus not the only targets of the government's anti-alcohol program. Fights break out from time to time at Murrayfield, scene of matches between Scots rugby teams and teams of other nations, including England and Ireland.

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