The taps are open in the SEC.
After much debate, the Southeastern Conference has finally relented to the growing pressure to start selling alcoholic beverages in general seating areas on game day and have changed their longstanding rule prohibiting such sales. The league announced the change at their annual spring meeting in Destin, Fla. on Friday and will now allow each school “the autonomy to determine the permissibility of selling alcoholic beverages in its athletics venues, subject to certain Conference-wide alcohol management expectations.”
“Our policy governing alcohol sales has been a source of considerable discussion and respectful debate among our member universities in recent years,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a release. “As a Conference, we have been observant of trends in the sale and consumption of alcohol at collegiate sporting events and have drawn upon the experiences and insights of our member schools which have responsibly established limited alcohol sales within controlled spaces and premium seating areas. We remain the only conference to set forth league-wide standards for the responsible management of the sale of alcoholic beverages.”
There are a few ground rules that were adopted so this isn’t quite the free-for-all some fans undoubtedly wanted. Perhaps the biggest change is that only beer and wine will be allowed in general seating areas (no liquor/mixed drinks, which still should be limited to club areas) and only at set locations in the stadium. ID checks will be taken for every sale as well and there will be a specific limit of drinks in terms of what a person can buy. There also won’t be any beer bottles lying around as everything must be dispensed into cups and staff training will be increased across the board.
While the changes do apply to all sports in the SEC, sales in the public areas of stadiums will be cut off during football games at the end of the 3rd quarter. There are also some additional limits on advertising as well.
“We are proud of the great game-day atmospheres the SEC and our member schools have cultivated throughout our history, and no other conference rivals the SEC in terms of our ability to offer an intense yet family-friendly atmosphere for all of our fans,” added South Carolina President Harris Pastides. “This policy is intended to enhance the game-day experience at SEC athletics events by providing our schools the autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their respective campuses while also establishing expectations for responsible management of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.”
Needless to say, this puts the SEC on much more level ground with their peers around college athletics. Half of the Big Ten will be selling adult beverages during the 2019 season alone and it seems like school after school around the country are joining the growing list with each passing month. Additional revenues are no doubt one driving force but fan enjoyment and increased attendance during games is also another. It’s not like SEC fans didn’t enjoy a beer or two (or nine) during tailgates but at least now things are a little more controlled once kickoff actually rolls around.
There are some who thought they’d never see the day down South but beer and wine is coming to an SEC game near you in 2019. It just means more in the conference after all and that includes alcohol content as well.