Summer of sport

Super Saturday: The experience of watching 11 hours of sport in the pub

By Liam Coleman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Super Saturday: The experience of watching 11 hours of sport in the pub

Related tags: England, United kingdom

It is 11am on 'Super Saturday'. Despite it being nine hours until England kick off their Euro 2016 campaign, the Faltering Fullback in north London is already full to bursting with viewers of England's rugby union Test match against Australia. It's very clear from the start that this sporting summer is about more than just football.

Today is billed as 'Super Saturday' because not only do England play rugby Down Under at 11am UK time, Wales played New Zealand at 8.30am our time. While there is Test cricket between England and Sri Lanka throughout the day, F1 qualifying in the early evening, rugby union action for Ireland in the late afternoon and a trio of Euro 2016 matches.

The day began early for Mikey Fitzsimons and the team at the Faltering Fullback, with Fitzsimons telling the Publican's Morning Advertiser​ (PMA​) that 60 customers made it to the pub early enough to see Wales suffer an agonising defeat to world champions New Zealand in rugby union.

These 60 customers remain for the England match that follows soon after and are joined by many more that come just for the England match. The result: a full pub on a Saturday morning before half of the country has even thought about having brunch.

Yet if the pub was busy at 11am, it is positively bouncing a couple of hours later, thanks to England coming from 10-0 down to triumph 39-28 over Australia thanks to some positive attacking rugby.

England remain unbeaten under coach Eddie Jones and they are playing fast, exciting rugby that is easy on the eye; the humiliation of being knocked out at the group stages of a home World Cup only eight months ago seems like a distant memory. With the form they are in, England's rugby matches are going to be a huge draw as we build up to the next World Cup in 2019.

A chorus of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot​ rings loud from the other side of the bar and it's hard to comprehend that it's only 1pm.

Huge days of sport still to come this summer

June 18 ​Rugby union: Australia v England, New Zealand v Wales, South Africa v Ireland; Racing: Royal Ascot; Euro 2016: Belgium v Republic of Ireland; F1: European Grand Prix qualifying; Golf: US Open

June 25​ Rugby union: Australia v England, New Zealand v Wales, South Africa v Ireland; Euro 2016: Three last-16 clashes; Boxing: Anthony Joshua v Dominic Breazeale            

July 10​ F1: British Grand Prix; Tennis: Wimbledon men's final; Euro 2016: final

July 16​ Golf: The Open; Test cricket: England v Pakistan; Rugby league: Catalans Dragons v Wakefield Wildcats; Darts: World Matchplay; Tennis: Davis Cup quarter finals

July 24​  F1: Hungarian Grand Prix; Test cricket: England v Pakistan; Darts: World Matchplay final

August 13 ​Olympics: Athletics at the Rio games; Football: First day of the Premier League season

It's impossible to deny that there is a lull after the rugby match. However, there is still a healthy number of customers to keep the bar staff and management busy. The cricket is put on the TV with the volume turned down so that, for an hour, music rather than sport is the first sound that greets customers.

The atmosphere continues to build throughout the cricket and the opening football match for the day (between Switzerland and Albania), which follows it. By the time the day's third rugby match (South Africa v Ireland) and the coverage for the day's second football match (Wales's Euro 2016 curtain-raiser against Slovakia) come around at 4pm, the pub is as busy as it was for England's rugby match.

It is at this point that the first serious dilemma of the day comes for the bar staff. Do they show the rugby or the football? There had been very few objections up until this point that there had only been fleeting showings of sports other than the rugby and football. Yet here the pub's team finds itself confronted by a considerable number of customers in both bars wearing either Wales football shirts or Ireland rugby tops.

The decision to ultimately show the rugby match on the majority of the screens and the Wales football match on just one screen is taken with impressive good humour by the Wales fans. The Faltering Fullback does bill itself as an 'Irish pub' on its website after all.

The bold call is justified. Ireland give one of their best performances in recent memory by winning against the Springboks, despite having flanker CJ Stander sent off after only 23 minutes. By the end, every Irish turnover is greeted with the same vigour as a match-winning try and the Guinness orders are going through the roof.

There is such a feel good atmosphere surrounding Ireland's victory that the decision to switch over from the trivial post-match analysis of the rugby to the final 40 minutes of Wales's football match is initially greeted by boos. This is short lasting as the customers grow into the evening of football and find themselves absorbed by the second half of Wales's 2-1 win over Slovakia.

 

With the Wales match finished, there is now a one-hour break before England open their Euro 2016 campaign in Marseille against Russia. There is absolutely no lull in this hour though. The luck of the draw has worked out beautifully for the pub industry, with it being blind luck that sees England kick off at 8pm on the first Saturday of the tournament.

It is now time for the bar staff and the England national team to deliver in this high-pressure environment.

In the Faltering Fullback, there is no doubt that the bar staff delivered. It may have been nigh on impossible to claw one's way to the bar, but once at the bar, there's the sight of staff that have been trained to deal with multiple rounds at once and are calmly keeping things ticking over.

In Marseille, England looked like delivering when the pressure was on. Nine hours on from England's 39-28 rugby win and the patriotism that gave birth to a verse of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot​, England's football team lead 1-0 and there is the first stirring of a verse of Three Lions​.

It wasn't to last. Russia's last-minute equaliser is greeted by quiet despair by the entire pub; even from the Wales fans that had stayed to watch England in action.

Yet despite England failing to win, there is a feeling of content in the air. The summer of sport is in full swing and if the rest of the summer provides anywhere near as much drama as the first Super Saturday, we are in for a summer to remember.

Related topics: Sport

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