England's in its cups with the football on

June 16, 2006

England's reputation for responsible drinking has taken another battering as academics identify the phenomenon of the World Cup binge.

Heavy drinking has been on the rise since the World Cup kicked off last week as people have flocked to pubs to enjoy big-screen football in the company of fellow fans, according to two York University academics.

Phil Hadfield and Simon Winlow, experts in the social consequences of binge drinking, are studying World Cup bingeing to add to their already considerable body of knowledge on the relationship between culture, crime and drinking.

Dr Hadfield's research has required him to spend long hours in pubs and clubs and in the company of police patrols on the night shift. He said:

"The World Cup is like having a month of Friday and Saturday nights.

There's clearly a heightened level of risk because large groups of men are gathering together, drinking large quantities, passions are very high and people get excitable."

He said that pubs were quick to cash in on the World Cup, draping their premises in England flags and bunting, offering drinks and snacks promotions and providing big-screen TVs to show the matches.

"The licensed trade sees the World Cup as a bonanza period. What they do not want people to do is buy a stack of cans and stay at home," Dr Hadfield said.

He and Dr Winlow criticised the Government's response to the dangers. They described its £2.5 million campaign of high-visibility policing as a "sticking plaster". It does nothing to tackle issues such as Britain's drinking culture, the number of pub licences or late-night transport, they said.

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