Summer of Sport

My Pub: Creating an award-winning sports offer

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

Murderers' owner Philip Cutter picked up the Best Sports Pub award at last year's GBPA
Murderers' owner Philip Cutter picked up the Best Sports Pub award at last year's GBPA
Philip Cutter, licensee of freehouse the Gardeners Arms, better known to its regulars as the Murderers, tells the Publican’s Morning Advertiser about the pub’s award-winning sports offer.

There has been a pub on this site since at least 1841 so it’s a long-standing institution in Norwich city centre.

In 1895 the landlady’s daughter was murdered by her estranged husband; it was a notorious case at the time and the Gardeners Arms acquired the nickname of the Murderers, which is what everyone knows the pub as.

Atmosphere

Now, however, we’re more famous for our wide variety of screened sports, our range of cask beers and our community atmosphere.

I’ve been involved with the pub for 29 years now. I started as a teenager glass collecting and progressed to working behind the bar and then manager by the time I was 25.

Murderers 3D

I bought into the business 11 years ago and celebrated serving one million pints earlier this year.

Showing sport for us is all about creating a great atmosphere for our customers. The pub is laid out in such a unique way that we can show lots of different sports at the same time, meaning customers are guaranteed to be able to watch the sporting event of their choice.

Our main area is like an old fashioned terrace at a football ground, where people stand shoulder-to-shoulder watching the match. It creates an atmosphere that can only really be replicated by being at the stadium. 

Team ethic

The staff love the atmosphere at the pub during big matches. I wouldn’t say they are all sports-mad, but what they really do is get on board with the team ethic and work hard for each other.

We try to accommodate as many customer demands as possible and that means planning in advance and knowing where different sports will be shown. We have a briefing at the start of shift to make sure everyone knows which area of the pub is showing which sport. They really do embrace it.

Gardeners interior

When Norwich got to the Championship play-off final last season we decked out the pub in yellow and green banners, the lights were set to yellow and green, the staff all wore yellow shirts.

The pub was so busy, but the team pulled together and made it a great occasion — although not necessarily for me as I’m an Ipswich supporter!

If we know it’s going to be a big match then we will up the ante; we’ll do the same this summer for Euro 2016. What really made me proud was the customers’ reaction; there were so many positive comments about how enjoyable the experience was.

Match-day service

If you’re a dedicated sports venue or a pub that shows sport as a major part of its offer, you have to look after your regular, loyal customers.

Murderers toilet screens

We always make sure we have plenty of staff on. I believe we were the first pub in the country to have TVs in the toilets. We found that it really diminishes the half-time rush as people were previously waiting until then to pay a visit and we’d miss out on bar sales.

Now with the TVs in the toilets they can still watch the action and avoid the worst of the queues.

I like to support local brewers, and on match days we sell a lot of Woodforde’s Wherry ale. Lager is also obviously very popular on match days. And our house bitter from a local microbrewery goes well. We also take advantage of various sports-themed ales from brewers to offer something different to customers.

We run our full menu until 8pm and offer dishes and snacks that we can serve quickly and people can eat more easily while watching sport.

Last year we converted an under-used bar into a VIP area that’s now available for pre-booking. It includes its own dedicated screen and sound-proofing so it’s a nice comfy spot to settle in and watch the action. England’s Euro 2016 group games are already booked out.

Investment

We have a total of three satellite boxes and two Freeview boxes and those feeds all go through a matrix and then out to the screens in the pub. So each TV has all of those feeds available to them, which allows us to vary what we show.

We have invested quite heavily in HD screens and the picture quality is excellent. We have three large screens, plus a number of smaller screens dotted around the pub.

In the main bar area the sound goes through the PA system and with the smaller screens we have sound bars which help boost the quality and volume.

Sporting summer

The international rugby summer tours will be big for us. We’ll get good support from local rugby clubs and I expect a decent crowd in.

I think the Olympics might be quite exciting as well. When Formula 1 moves back to Europe the race times work well for us, especially the British Grand Prix.

Boxing is a big draw and there are some great fights scheduled, especially the big world-title showdowns on pay-per-view.

When Norwich City are playing we are a destination for home fans. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the ground so we’ll see them before the match for a bit of food and then afterwards for a pint or two.

I also have good relationships with various managers whose teams use the pub.

Achievement

GBPA.2015.Best.Sports.Pub..Gardeners.Arms.The.Murderers

Our biggest achievement was winning Best Sports Pub at the Great British Pub Awards last year. We worked hard for that recognition and success doesn’t happen overnight.

The fact that people want to come and spend their money with us means we are doing something right. I’m proud to invite people in to my pub to enjoy sport and the experience. There have been so many days when the team have done me proud.

Do you run a great sports pub?

Do you provide a great experience that keeps your sport-loving customers coming back for more? Is your pub the place to be for big events? The nominate yourself for Best Sports Pub in the Great British Pub Awards 2016.

Entering is easy and straightforward via the awards website

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