Saturday, 9 August 2014

It's all kicking off again

It’s the middle of August, so once again I need to start checking the football fixtures before venturing out to the pub at weekend lunchtimes or midweek evenings.

Contrary to the popular impression, I do actually take a passing interest in football and quite enjoyed watching some of the matches in the World Cup. The problem in pubs is not that it is shown at all, but that it is allowed to dominate to the exclusion of all else. Given the cost of Sky TV, you can perhaps understand pubs wanting to put screens everywhere, but that makes it clear to those who aren’t interested in football that they’re not really welcome. If you just showed it in the vault you might think you weren’t getting your money’s worth. Last Spring I was in a pub that mainly concentrates on food trade, but even so has a screen in every section. A Premier League match involving two out-of-area teams was showing, with the sound up, but hardly anyone was watching. What is the point? It might be a good idea for Sky to offer a reduced subscription to pubs who were only going to show it in part of their interior, but that would be very hard to enforce.

Locally, I know that if I go to Spoons, or a Sam Smith’s pub, or one of the several beer-focused free houses in Stockport town centre, I won’t be confronted with a mass of chanting football fans. But surely I should be able to call in most pubs at random without being forced to research the fixtures before going out. And, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the pubs in my immediate area, including the two within realistic walking distance, do have Sky Sports.

In fact, there are growing signs that pubs are realising that every customer they attract with TV football puts at least one other off. It doesn’t convey the image that many pubs want to encourage. Much of this is to do with attracting dining trade, but there are straws in the wind that the micropub movement is encouraging a return to the old-fashioned drink and chat pub. Ralph Findlay of Marston’s says that sport is becoming less important to his pubs, while the Financial Times reports:

Surveys by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers reveal the proportion of landlords with a sports subscription is in steady decline. In 2003, it was 51 per cent but last season had slumped to 37 per cent.

Kate Nicholls of the ALMR said with subscription costs averaging £15,000 a year and rising 5 per cent from next week, landlords were finding it harder to make the economics stack up.

“We are seeing a declining proportion of pubs majoring on sport,” she said. “Changing demographics and costs come into it. If you become a food-led pub, Sky becomes a luxury rather than a necessity.”

I saw a recent report that more people each year go to the theatre in London than attend all Premier League fixtures across the country, so the idea that football is something enjoying unrivalled national popularity is rather wide of the mark..

Apart from matches featuring City and United, I don’t see much sign around here that it actually draws in additional custom. Many pubs have it simply because they fear that, if they didn’t, all their customers would decamp elsewhere. A big match is a big earner. But, as I’ve said before, it’s a case of waiting for the other man to blink first. The total cost of Sky Sports to pubs probably greatly exceeds the additional revenue it generates for the pub trade as a whole. And the point is often made that many of the customers who flock in to watch the two big local clubs are never seen in the pub at other times and may not put that much money across the bar when they’re there.

At present, it would be nice to go in a pub and see the Test Match being shown on a TV screen. But I wouldn’t really go out of my way for it.


  1. A test match wouldn't half be a drinking marathon though!

  2. Maybe not the current one ;-)

  3. Whats the alternative to watching
    football on TV in today's pubs,
    standing at the bar hemmed in by
    whiskered gargoyles in varying stages of putrification or weary couples debating some relatives
    hysterectomy.Must'nt forget the gasping puffing billies cluttering the doorway getting excited about a passing empty bus.
    Of course some will proclaim a pub still full and real,untill one asks them....where?

    The dying North

  4. Martin, Cambridge9 August 2014 at 22:22

    Think you're right about declining popularity of football in pubs, but obviously not in homes across the world given latest Sky deal, which is what pays City's wages

    NB Your point about theatre attendance's is technically correct, but of course there are a hundred times as many shows as Premiership matches across the year, and most football is, sadly, watched on TV rather than live.

  5. "Most football is, sadly, watched on TV rather than live." - I'm not surprised, given the cost of a ticket to Premiership games these days.

    Sky or no Sky, today's footballers are a disgrace, and I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to watch them. Over-paid, prima-donnas, who fail to deliver on all counts, as proved by the England team's performances in countless World Cups!

  6. Stanley Blenkinsop9 August 2014 at 23:24

    I was in a public house yesterday and asked the stout-hearted yeoman behing the bar if he'd mind putting one of his eight TVs on to Sky Sports 2 so I could watch the cricket.
    " What - and send all my customers to sleep ? " he guffawed loudly.
    At the time all eight televisions were tuned in to a Korean womens football match.
    There were only three other customers in the pub.
    I mentioned both these things to him as I walked out.
    He was what some of my younger chums call a twat.

  7. "of course there are a hundred times as many shows as Premiership matches across the year"

    Indeed, but the average venue is much smaller. Also, given the number of football season ticket holders, I'd bet that in an average year far more different individuals attend the London theatre than Premiership football.

  8. All pubs should be Mudgie pubs and none should aim for a different clientele.

  9. But what I'm complaining about here is the idea that all pubs, and all areas of pubs, should be footie pubs.

  10. I'm in complete agreement with you on this one, Curmudgeon. Surveys have shown that the majority of people in this country have either little or no interest in football. My local has one TV in one room, so I simply go to another room. A previous local had only one TV, but got TVs in every area of the pub for a previous World Cup. They didn't disappear afterwards. At worst, you could have 4 TVs, sometimes on different channels, plus the jukebox. The noise level was ridiculous.

    Our group - then up to about 10 in number - soon found another local.

  11. John Clarke: I didn't know the word 'classic' was a derogatory term.

  12. I find myself in complete agreement with the Pub Curmudgeon. If we are to make pubs less appealing to young men we must indeed break the link with association football.

  13. The Festering Old Gentleman10 August 2014 at 16:03

    Yes, we need to make pubs safe for old blokes to gather and discuss how the world has gone to the dogs and why that Mr Farage is an excellent fellow.

  14. John Clarke and Red Nev's two penneth.
    Freedom is no stranger to acclaim and criticism
    Tis true some of us older ones are somewhat unfair when we survey the current level of social intercourse,we forget many
    are content as they have not known any different.

    Sometimes silly,yet free.

  15. Nev - like Mudgie I genuinely to like the almost lyrical quality of Anon when he's at his best. Not saying I agree with it (or even understand some of it for that matter) but that's missing the point.

  16. @Festering, I wasn't sure about Nige myself. Seemed a bit of a comedy figure. Likes a pint & a fag, mad as a box of frogs. Voice of the people? My arse. As posh, privately educated as the rest of 'em.

    However, since discovering you kippers admire Hitler, I'm a covert.

  17. You wanna come live in Cambs, mudgie. We have the opposite problem, a monopoly of quaint little real ale pubs, with no sky sports pubs for miles in any direction.

    I've experienced Stanley's problem many times, ask for cricket or rugby in a sports pub and they look at you like you're nuts, grudgingly stick it on a tiny tv in the corner, but still leave the sound on the fake wrestling that no-one is watching.

  18. Stanley Blenkinsop11 August 2014 at 13:38

    " However, since discovering you kippers admire Hitler, I'm a covert. "

    A covert what ?

    Surely not another right-on,North London Sandalista like Pete Brown.
    Make your mind up son - you're either a lager-swilling lout who likes the cut of Nige's jib or a museli-munching Trot.

  19. sorry, Stan, convert. I'm a convert. I can't make a Hitler joke? I thought everyone loved a Hitler joke?

    I like a bit of Nige, but the kippers do seem to attract some odd people ;)

    Have a read of "Look who's back" by Timur Vermes, or even "Er ist wieder da" as it's funnier in the original. Only if you like Hitler humour, mind.

  20. If I look at the Premier League fixtures, there are lunchtime or afternoon televised matches involving City or United on six of the next eight Saturdays and Sundays.

  21. wahay, that'll drag me into the pub. All this cheap lager will have to wait. I'm off down the pub to shout at the screen and annoy the shit out of Mudgie.

  22. Stanley Blenkinsop11 August 2014 at 20:31


    " Have a read of "Look who's back" by Timur Vermes, or even "Er ist wieder da" as it's funnier in the original. Only if you like Hitler humour, mind. "

    Sometimes I think Google has a lot to answer for.

  23. Well if that's the thanks I get Stan I'm keeping stum regarding the contemporary portuguese humourous verse the lads were discussing in the pub the other evening before Mudge turned up and insisted on turning the conversation into how he'd like to "bang the back doors in" of the young well proportioned barmaid.

    Really, it's all self defecation and lewd sexualized imagery with the older generation. Us youngsters discuss the arts supplement of the Guardian on our way to the match.

  24. would it be fair to say alot of the pubs that have Sky are forced to have it through their pubco tie, and unless the pub tenants are completely into their sport, and surprisingly few are IME, or support a particular team that features on alot of games, it becomes something stuck in the corner of the room they have to put up with and pay for, but dont particularly find themselves motivated to promote or use well that caters for either sets of groups of customers

    as Ive seen as many pubs do their best to put trade off by actually not bothering to cater for the sports watching pub trade, even though they have these jumbotron screens and spend thousands per month on subscriptions, alot seem to be quite indifferent to simply just making it work for them.

    I remember one year watching the City/Utd derby game which whoever won basically meant the other was unlikely to win the premiership, it attracted neutrals as well as supporters of both teams, even as far away as East Anglia, the pub was doing midweek trade because they were showing this game, but at halftime they went round and turned all the tvs off, because it happened to clash with their weekly regulars karaoke night, which had attracted all of about 2 people :) so we had the choice of standing outside in the smokers shelter (Ive no idea why they had a tv outside there) or leave and try and find another pub. most people left. the pub shut about 6months later.

    or Ive visited a pub for a lunchtime Saturday kickoff and its not always about the premiership, local club involved,so plenty of local interest, place is packed, the pub had put 1 member of staff on, and actually had ran out of beer,because they had no-one experienced around,landlord had gone shopping or something to change barrels at that time of the day.

    same issue ive been trying to catch some of the motor racing in pubs this year, Sunday lunchtime most tvs are still off, as football doesnt generally start till mid afternoon,and no-one behind the bar ever knows how to turn the tv on, what channel number combination it is, or even where the *!?"!" remote is !!!

    so it might seem in some pubs sports tv watchers are well catered for at the expense of others, but on the whole its generally a rubbish experience.

    the only bars that seem to do it well are the dedicated sports bars, where you can watch the cricket, and watch about half a dozen other sports on at the same time, the beer doesnt tend to be so great though.

  25. Stanley Blenkins13 August 2014 at 07:04


    It's shtum not stum.
    It's a Yiddish word by way of the German stumm.
    A schoolboy error for one so knowledgeable about Hitler humour,if I might say so.


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