It is a little-known fact, but back in the early seventies, a Crystal Palace player made a bit of history.
Phil Hoadley, a centre-back who had debuted in 1968 for the Eagles, was pictured in the FKS Wonderful World of Soccer 1971 collection crouching over a ball with a cigarette in his hand!
A year later, he was at it again, and few raised an eyebrow. Today that seems horrendous, but back in the early seventies, it didn’t cause any commotion at all. After leaving Palace, he also appeared for Norwich City and Leyton Orient before retiring with a knee injury.
What has changed since the seventies, and how do supporters now deal with these cultural shifts?
Today’s Smoking Laws
Today, supporters attending Selhurst Park certainly can’t light up – the Premier League stipulates that all stadiums need to be smoke-free. Everton were the first top-flight club to ban smoking; it’s been stopped at Goodison Park since 2005. Other clubs followed suit, and in 2007, smoking in top-flight stadiums was banned completely.
It isn’t the case across Europe, where rather more complex laws are in place. Germany is a popular location for football trips from England, given the low cost of transport and tickets, as well as having so many clubs in a small area. Fans wishing to see a game in the Bundesliga can stay in Cologne, and they’re a short journey away from Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Monchengladbach, among others. However, bans only exist in certain parts of those stadiums, such as the Rewe family block at Dortmund or blocks 9-14 at Dusseldorf. Unless the roof is on, and then smoking is banned completely. It pays for smokers to do their research.
In Spain, another popular football destination, smoking was banned in some stadiums, such as the Nou Camp, but not the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Then Real Madrid completed their renovation, and it became illegal. That hasn’t stopped some famous names from lighting up in the dugout either – Slaven Bilic was one such manager who earned himself a fine for smoking on the touchline when in charge of Besiktas, despite there not being a ban in the stands.
What can supporters do?
More clubs are getting on board with the smoking ban, and more often than not, that also includes vapes. Vaping has become a popular alternative to smoking and is often seen as harmless. Football clubs do not think so, and in many instances, vaping is treated in the same manner as smoking. Indeed, The Guardian reports that single-use vapes are in the process of being banned; some clubs, such as League One side Cambridge United, have doubled down on vaping bans with fresh statements and policies this season.
If supporters can’t vape but are smokers, what can be done to satiate those urges at Selhurst Park? Football can be a stressful game, not least when a late Matheus Cunha goal for Wolves gives them a slim hope of pulling a 3-3 draw out of the bag. The natural reaction for a smoker is to reach for a packet, but that’s not allowed. So, what is?
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) are growing in popularity. They’ve been around for a while; supporters of a certain vintage will remember when nicotine pouches hit the market. Products such as NicoQuit patches have provided a gentle delivery of nicotine for a while, and as they’re discreet and stick to the arm, they’ve favoured by supporters wishing to avoid withdrawal during Eagles’ matches. Another product that has become popular is nicotine pouches, which like SNUS, fits under the top lip and gum. The nicotine pouches on Prilla come in a range of strengths and flavours, ensuring that even the heaviest of smokers can get the dose they desire to see them through a half of football. Pouches tend to last around 30 minutes but often come with a handy tin for disposal.
There’s no guarantee NRTs will not be the subject of regulation in the future – SNUS in the Premier League is already a growing issue that has grabbed column inches this year. However, in terms of supporters wanting to get their nicotine fix during a game, NRTs such as pouches and patches are surely the best bet.
Football is changing. No longer are players like Phil Hoadley able to pose with a cigarette in their hands, and no longer can supporters do the same in the Arthur Wait Stand. That can only be a good thing for everyone’s health, although the kick you get from a Jean-Philippe Mateta last-gasp winner against Leicester City is perhaps still not entirely good for you, nicotine or no nicotine!