A red-carded Cristiano Ronaldo in tears, Jose Mourinho channelling Roger Federer to psyche himself up for an artificial pitch, and ‘boring’ James Milner stashing £200m star Neymar in his back pocket – the 2018/19 Champions League has kicked off in typically dramatic fashion.
Less typically, however, UEFA made a change to their kick-off times ahead of this year’s campaign by introducing 5.55pm and 8pm kick-offs for this year’s Champions League instead of the standard 7.45pm of previous years, as reported by The Morning Advertiser.
The change should in theory be a positive one for pubs, allowing them to increase customer dwell time by at least 90 minutes, and letting them show back-to-back games rather than zoning their venue and showing matches simultaneously, or having to pick which British team to show.
This year’s opening match day on 18 September, for example, saw Tottenham v Inter Milan and Liverpool v Paris Saint Germain scheduled for respective 5.55pm and 7.45pm kick-offs on a single evening.
The Morning Advertiser asked pubs if the new format had any impact on their trading.
Keep them coming
Following the double-header of Liverpool’s dominant display against Paris Saint Germain and Tottenham’s collapse against Inter Milan, Liz Reece from Café Football in Stratford, east London, said: “If last night’s (18 September) Champions League games were anything to go by then Café Football would certainly like a few more evenings like that.
“Obviously with people trying to get out of work and to the venue, the first game was a little bit of a ‘slow burn’ but by the end of the first half the place was packed and the only complication was when people didn’t want to leave when the second game started.
“After an intense 15 minutes of shuffling tables and moving guests to the bar area to accommodate diners, we seem to have pulled it off.
“We are well up for the consecutive kick-offs on the back of last night’s turnover.”
Kate Stewart, owner of the Sandon Pub in Liverpool, located less than half a mile from Anfield, added: “The introduction of two Champions League games is fantastic news for the pub, which welcomes hundreds of fans on matchdays who all seek an enjoyable and relaxed environment where they can watch the game.
“The Sandon is open from 11am until 11pm, so guests can join us to secure a comfortable seat where they can watch both matches right through until 9.45pm.
“Having fans with us from before the first game through to after the second will contribute to the pub’s atmosphere, which is always an exciting one.”
Following Manchester United’s 3-0 win against Young Boys and Manchester City’s surprise 2-1 reverse against Lyon, Bronwyn Cooper, manager of the Old Sergeant in Wandsworth, south London, commented: “We've found the new fixture times have had a positive impact on both wet and food sales.
“On both days we had regular customers come in specifically to watch the games who would normally have only been in at the weekend, and as we run food offers during the week it was an incentive for them to eat too.
“It also attracted quite a few new customers who also all ate, and anyone who came in to watch the first game stayed to watch the second on both days which is great for the business.”