A pub's guide to: The world cup

Russia 2018: Creating World Cup atmosphere

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Atmosphere matters: 80% of sports fans said that they preferred the atmosphere in the pub compared to watching at home.
Atmosphere matters: 80% of sports fans said that they preferred the atmosphere in the pub compared to watching at home.
It is widely acknowledged that pubs offer sporting atmosphere second only to being at the event in person. this will create a lively backdrop for the World Cup this summer and could potentially mean big business for Britain’s pubs

AB InBev on-trade sales director for the UK, Rory Mclellan, flags up a number of vital areas for pubs to bear in mind to make sure they make the most of the huge opportunity this summer’s World Cup brings.

“The four key things that make a good football tournament for a pub are attracting footfall, increasing dwell time, driving rate of sale and the legacy – because you want the football tournament to give you something more than just the few weeks that the tournament is on.”

With four out of every five sports fans expressing a preference for a pub atmosphere compared to watching live action at home, according to sport pub finding app MatchPint, this summer’s World Cup presents publicans with an open goal.

Keep everybody involved

A regular screener of live sport from Six Nations rugby to the Premier League, Lee Price, of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, is looking to step things up for this summer’s World Cup and create a lively, colourful and inclusive atmosphere throughout the tournament, using his approach to this year’s Six Nations as a starting point. 

“What we’ve done with the Six Nations is dress the pub up in all the Wales flags, bunting, colours and so forth. This year, it was a case of being more inclusive and dressing the venue up with the colours and the flags of every nation to give it that inclusive feel and for the customers to know that you can come here and watch every match, support any team and you will be made to feel welcome.

“Rather than saying ‘OK we haven’t got Welsh representation, we’ll support England or another of the teams’ I think we’ve got to be as neutral as we possibly can to make sure we don’t lose that inclusive feel. What we’ll be likely to do is host prediction contests and prizes.”

Paul Eastwood of west London’s Famous Three Kings, twice winner of the Great British Pub Awards prize for Best Sports Pub, also emphasises the importance of creating an inclusive, wholesome atmosphere during tournaments, stating that colour and chanting are celebrated in his pub as long as fans keep it clean.

“We’re a little bit different to most pubs, a lot of pubs don’t like singing, flags and football shirts – we kind of encourage it. We do like the atmosphere and find that we don’t have any trouble with rival fans. If the chanting and cheering is in good taste, we encourage it as long as it’s not directed negatively at a different set of fans.”

Price adds that small creative touches and novelties can go a long way to lighten the mood.

“We’re thinking of adopting a red card and a yellow card scheme whereby a table can hold a giant red card up in the air if they want a drink order, a yellow card if they want food, to make it more fun. Or we could dress the duty manager up as a referee to signify that deals are starting to finish, just some clever little things that bring a bit of theatre and a bit of fun.

“Have a good think about what you do well and add bells to it.”

What’s in a name?

Phil Cutter of the Gardeners Arms in Norwich, Norfolk, is taking pub decoration to different heights this summer. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Cutter is working on a temporary pub name change to build excitement around the royal wedding and England’s World Cup campaign simultaneously.

“We’re in the process of changing the name of the pub for the summer to ‘the Harry’.

“Obviously we’ve got the royal wedding coming up so that will tick the box for the May period, then we’ve got the build-up to the World Cup and obviously there’s Harry Kane.” 

With the Gardeners Arms already known locally as the Murderers, Cutter doesn’t see any risk of confusing his locals, instead hoping that the temporary name change will help establish the site as a go-to spot for the big events this summer and attract a light-hearted crowd.

“To change the name of the pub for a couple of months isn’t going to make a massive amount of difference I don’t think, but just makes people aware that we will be showing the World Cup.

“We’re planning to get our swing sign refurbished with pictures of Prince Harry and Harry Kane.”

Sound and vision

Eastwood adds that the match shouldn’t be the only entertainment on offer during this summer’s World Cup, emphasising that live music can stop the atmosphere, and punters, flowing back out of the pub’s doors after full time.
“It’s not always easy to get a full pub, so what we try to do is when we know we’re going to be busy, we make sure we have the entertainment, we have set playlists, so we can keep people that are in around for the maximum time possible.

“It’s a criminal thing to have a full pub and then lose them, it’s hard enough to get people in anyway sometimes in the pub trade.

“If we know it’s going to be very busy, we make sure we have DJs ready to go as soon as the match finishes. With Premier League games, we won’t have a DJ starting at 5pm, but for a big tournament or an England or Spain match, we’ll maybe have the DJ ready to go straight afterwards.

“We have playlists for the different teams, we’ll put French and Spanish tunes on when the games have finished. We will cater to a lot of the countries that are coming in as well. We’ll make the effort to find some songs from their countries to make an atmosphere before and after the game and get people cheering.”

This even extends to roping in extra staff to focus purely on sound, vision and maintaining an atmosphere throughout World Cup match days.

“We know we’re going to be busy, we know we’re going to be at capacity, so we’re going to make sure we have a dedicated person whose job is lighting, sound and music – that role evolves throughout the game – the busier we
get, the higher the sound goes up, and we are pretty much ready to switch straight over to music and the party atmosphere as soon as the game finishes so we don’t lose people.”

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) emphasises the impact having a tech-ready pub can have on atmosphere during a big sporting event.

“It’s important to make sure you have a number of good-quality TV screens strategically located so that the action can be seen from all areas of the premises, including some that can be seen from the bar so that consumers are more inclined to buy drinks and not worry about missing the action.”

Tackling queues

No non-football-related stress saps a punter’s mood like waiting in a three or four person deep rush on the bar for their next drink in the heat of summer.

As such, Mclellan highlights the importance of swift service in minting the positive vibes during Russia 2018 this summer. He cites the importance of technology such as AB InBev’s ‘Bottom’s Up’ gadget, which fills multiple pint glasses from the bottom upwards to enhance speed of serve, as well as the sale of ‘Bud bin’ buckets of bottled beer.

Paul Eastwood of the Famous Three Kings concurs: “We’re going to try and focus a bit more on table service and have bought lots of eight pint towers to go for speed of service as well.

“There’ll be extra bars and we’ve got a lot of two-pint glasses, which we used for the first time in the Six Nations, which I think are going to go down fantastically well.

“That’s again one of the things that can change the atmosphere – when people are waiting a long time for a drink.”

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