IF WE SELL IT, WILL THEY COME?

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By Greg Hudson

Sports and beer are good friends. They have been for a long, long time. But these friends are separated here at Ryerson, where the school refuses to serve beer at any Rams sports events.

With poor attendance at most games, one wonders if these friends were reunited, would they be able to bring in the fans?

At McGill University, the fans are drinking. Derrick Drummond, the school’s athletic director says serving beer at games has been part of their school’s tradition for years. “You know the equation between beer and students,” he said. “People enjoy it.”

Drummond notes that with beer sales, attendance isn’t limited to students alone. He says sometimes community members out-number those paying tuition. Imagine that.

Beer and sports isn’t only a tradition at McGill. Alcohol has always been a part of the culture of professional sports, with all of Toronto’s pro sports teams selling beer at their venues.

Here at the Ram in the Rye, tepid fans agreed that they would be more willing to go to a game if beer was served.

Hanan Molana, a second-year nursing student, thinks selling alcohol would increase school spirit. “It’s a good selling tool to get people to come out and sell the teams,” he said. As it is, “win or lose, people don’t seem to come.”

Second-year radio and television arts student Mark Boffo says that he would go to games if alcohol was sold. “Not because I’m an alcoholic, but because it adds to the atmosphere.”

Although other students agreed with gusto, when asked whether the lack of beer at games was ever a reason for them not attending, students conceded that it never came up.

This agrees with Tom Kendall’s analysis. Kendall is the athletic director at the University of Guelph, another school, like Ryerson, that kyboshes the brew. Although he has worked at schools that serve beer, he says that it hasn’t affected attendance.

“Alcohol is not the difference, winning teams bring fans,” he said.

Marion Creery, who’s temporarily running athletics after Ryerson’s former athletic director David Dubois was fired, wouldn’t comment about the beer situation. But speaking with other directors around the province, it’s possible to piece together why Ryerson might be reticent.

Leslie Dal Cin, athletics chair at Queen’s University, says that her refusal to sell beer is based on a desire to keep sports a family activity. She would consider it if Queen’s could find a way for “both groups to enjoy the experience without hindering the experience of the other.”

A lot of schools brought up the issue of liability and influence. Not only did they fear they would alienate families, but they worried they would send the wrong message of encouraging underage drinking.

Interestingly, McGill recognizes these problems but decides to work with them.

“It is a great responsibility when you have a liquor license,” Drummond says. “We have the same responsibility as any bar does. We’re very careful about issues.” There have been times when the school has cut crowds off mid-way through the game because of rowdiness, he says. But there are benefits besides satisfied customers. “Everyone that sells beer makes money.”

Maybe Ryerson could have it both ways. Carleton University doesn’t make it a general practice to sell beer at events, but gets a special events permit once in a while. This allows the selling and consumption of alcohol in specified areas.

Director of ancillary services at Ryerson John Corallo, the person in charge of our potential liquor license, would not return phone calls.

Dubois also didn’t return our calls.

Although there might be demand for beer, and it might improve attendance, it’s somewhat of a catch-22. T

hose in charge probably won’t listen to the demand until they see people clamouring for it. And they perhaps, won’t come out until they can get some hops with their sports.

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