Booze battle could see sober sevens or earlier finish time

DAVE BURGESS AND PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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Next year's Wellington sevens could be alcohol-free as police look to clamp down on the drunkenness they say plagued this year's tournament.

Westpac Stadium management maintained the crowd at the sevens this year "was the best behaved to date", but has said it would consider holding the event entirely during daylight hours to make it more family friendly.

Police have lodged two alternative applications with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority in relation to breaches of the new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act during the sevens.

Option one calls for the event to be held under a special licence, with terms agreed to by the police.

The second option is for the suspension or cancellation of the liquor licence held by Spotless, the caterer used at the sevens.

Police moves to crack down on sevens fans came after 20 arrests and 270 people were ejected from the stadium during the two-day tournament in February.

Police spokesman Nick Bohm confirmed yesterday that police had lodged two applications.

"Our preferred option [is] a special licence where we can set conditions. But it is all early days."

The cancellation or suspension of Spotless's liquor licence was "the more unlikely option".

"Nevertheless, we have put both those options in front of them [the licensing authority] and we can explore each one with the licensee."

Police concerns focused on the wristband system used to establish that patrons were at least 18 years old and entitled to buy alcohol, he said.

"Evidence of age documents weren't being checked appropriately at the door and [patrons] were being issued wristbands who shouldn't have been."

There were also issues about how staff were reassessing the intoxication levels of people buying alcohol, and that poorly trained volunteers were involved at the point of sale, he said.

But stadium chief executive Shane Harmon said: "All of our indicators in relation to excess consumption of alcohol within the stadium have been trending downwards for the past five years."

Beer consumption per patron had dropped by 50 per cent since 2008.

However, Harmon said the enforcement of the new alcohol legislation "provides real challenges for stadium and event operators".

If a special licence were required, the stadium would work collaboratively with police to ensure a suitable outcome was reached.

While the sevens had been successful for 15 years, "we all acknowledge it does need a refresh", he said.

"It's very popular in that 18 to early-30s age group, but I want to look at how do we get families involved, how do we get more genuine rugby fans.

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"One of the things I admired about the nines was that it finished in daylight, and I think it's something we should explore. It would also help from an alcohol management perspective if the event finished two hours earlier."

Neither Wellington sevens general manager Marty Donoghue nor Spotless responded to requests for comment.

- The Dominion Post

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