No alcohol ban for fight promotions

Boxing
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The Independent Online
Boxing

LIZ SEARL

Alcohol will not be banned at fights, despite a British Board of Control tribunal yesterday agreeing that drink played a major part in a riot at a bill in Glasgow last month. The bill included the contest which resulted in James Murray's death.

A four-hour inquiry by the BBBC's stewards into the disturbance when Murray fought Drew Docherty in a British bantamweight title fight said that the incident appeared to have been influenced by alcohol. However, the BBBC said it did not have enough evidence to warrant outright prohibition.

Instead, the provision of alcohol will still be left to the promoter's discretion, although drinking in auditoriums is already banned for reasons of safety.

The tribunal, chaired by the former Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sir David Hopkin, concluded that the section of the audience at Glasgow's Hospitality Inn who had purchased tickets for the boxing only and not the dinner had caused the disturbance. In view of this "the Board will not permit this mixed type of private and public event to take place in future".

"We felt by the nature of the flare-up that it must have been [alcohol]," John Morris, the general secretary of the BBBC, said. "The evidence wasn't strong enough, but that was our feeling."

A decision to ban alcohol would have wider financial implications. "Venues require and need to have food and drink available because it is part of their revenue and the cost for the promoter would rise dramatically if they were to have no drink at all," Morris said.

The BBBC, which extended its deepest sorrow to the family and friends of Murray, who suffered fatal head injuries during the bout, emphasised that it was not inquiring into the circumstances or causes of the boxer's death. "We are just trying to get to the bottom of what happened on the night," Morris said. "The object is to look ahead to see if anything can be done with safety."

At the end of its short report, the BBBC advocated the use of police and security staff to implement safety measures and maintain a high level of security even if promotions have taken place regularly and successfully at the same venue over a period of time.

It was satisfied no fault for the riot lay with the promoters, Frank Warren and Katherine Morrison, or the venue.

The panel had had a long look into the many aspects of mixed evenings, which could be difficult to control, and Morris revealed that Morrison would discontinue dinner and boxing shows, despite having run them for five years.

"Alcohol just needs to be properly controlled and we have to make sure that there is no drink in auditoriums with strict liaison with security staff," Morris said.

The Board had already ordered that security should be tightened at major fights 14 months ago after it investigated the riot at the NEC in Birmingham when chairs were thrown between rival supporters during the Robert McCracken v Steve Foster fight.

The Board decided not to introduce closed-circuit television surveillance as advocated by Warren. "That is something that individual promoters may want to consider," Morris said. "It would be very expensive but we will be watching its development with interest."

Strathclyde Police, who sent an observer, said they were not able to offer an opinion on the outcome as action is pending on individuals allegedly involved in the riot.

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