The national football centre is the Football Association’s training and coaching facility for all of the England teams and is a £100m-plus investment aimed at reviving the flagging fortunes of the national team after almost 50 trophy-less years.
Pictures of great England players and classic moments from the past adorn the walls (my hotel room had a large print of Stuart Pearce about to put a crunching tackle in on a Spanish winger during Euro 96) and serve to remind us of previous glories.
While the multi-millions spent on world-class facilities and coaching might not reap immediate rewards, with England likely to struggle once again in Brazil this summer, we were there to talk about how to reinvigorate another fallen giant which — supposedly — has seen better days and is struggling to match the successes of times past.
But is the doom and gloom surrounding the beer category justified?
The latest BBPA figures show that beer sales have increased for two consecutive quarters for the first time in 10 years – helped in no small part by the Chancellor’s historic decision in last year’s Budget to scrap the beer-duty escalator and cut a penny off duty. Yes, pub beer sales are still declining, but the rate has slowed compared to the previous year.
Research from consultancy Mintel presented at the summit shows that one of the keys to reviving the category is capturing the imagination of the so-called ‘Millennials’ — those born in the 1980s and 1990s.
This generation seeks high quality brands that are sweeter, offer a sense of adventure and pander to a healthier lifestyle. This goes some way to explain the recent success of ‘hybrid’ beers that blur the boundaries between categories and meet the demand for more interesting drinks.
What’s comforting is that pubs remain the place that people are likely to try these, and this is particularly true of beer, with half of pub goers having sampled flavoured beers, a quarter low-alcohol beers and about one fifth ‘speers’ — spirit beers.
With all the talk about craft beer and the resurgence in cask ale, it’s all too easy to forget the importance of lager sales to pubs — worth £8bn annually and accounting for 30% of the total amount drinkers spend every year. The final part of our year-long We Heart Lager campaign in this week's PMA reminds us of the importance of the nation’s favourite in pubs.
Separate summit research also offered some useful pointers as to how licensees can encourage more people, particularly women, to drink beer.
Try-before-you-buy offers, better pump clip descriptions and food matching were all mentioned. Crucially, having female bar staff, equipped with the knowledge to make recommendations, was cited as critical in moving more women into the category.
The summit left me feeling positive for the future so here’s to a bumper summer for beer and pubs powered by an England World Cup victory.
Maybe that’s just wishful thinking…