Sports fans drinking craft pints and G&Ts in the pub

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Different league: how are drinking habits changing among sports fans?
Different league: how are drinking habits changing among sports fans?
While lager sales still dominate on match days, are sports fans capable of increasing wine, spirits and craft beer consumption enough to close the gap?

November fixture list

3: Rugby Union – Autumn Internationals

Wales v Scotland (BBC One)
England v South Africa (Sky Sports)
Ireland v Italy (Channel 4)

3: Premier League football

Arsenal v Liverpool (BT Sport)

6-10: Cricket

Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle (Sky Sports)

6: UEFA Champions League

Red Star Belgrade v Liverpool (BT Sport)
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV Eindhoven (BT Sport)

7: UEFA Champions League

Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk (BT Sport)
Juventus v Manchester United (BT Sport)

8: UEFA Europa League​ 

Arsenal v Sporting Lisbon (BT Sport)
Bate Borisov v Chelsea (BT Sport)

9: EFL Championship

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday (Sky Sports)

10: Rugby Union – Autumn Internationals

Scotland v Fiji (BT Sport/BBC1)
England v New Zealand (Sky Sports)
Wales v Australia (BBC2)
Ireland v Argentina (Channel 4)

10: Premier League football

Crystal Palace v Spurs (BT Sport)

10: NBA

LA Clippers v Milwaukee Bucks (Sky Sports) 

11: Formula 1

Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paolo (Sky Sports)

11: Premier League football

Man City v Man United (Sky Sports)

14-18: Cricket

Sri Lanka v England, 2nd test, Kandy (Sky Sports)

15: International football friendly

England v USA (Sky Sports)

16: UEFA Nations League football

Wales v Denmark (Sky Sports)

17: Rugby Union – Autumn Internationals

Wales v Tonga (BBC1)
England v Japan (Sky Sports)
Scotland v South Africa (BT Sport/BBC1)
Ireland v New Zealand (Channel 4)

18: UEFA Nations League football

England v Croatia (Sky Sports)

18: NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies (Sky Sports)

According to CGA managed EPoS data, 545,770,475 pints of beer were sold during the eight weeks of the World Cup – slightly more than 15 Olympic swimming pools’ worth per week.

While a fair amount may have been hurled skywards rather than gulped between renditions of Gareth Southgate spun covers of Atomic Kitten, it’s clear that beer still enjoys the lion’s share
of possession when it comes to the beautiful game.

According to MatchPint, beer accounts for 61.9% of drinks bought by fans watching Premier League football, 59.2% by fans watching Six Nations rugby, and is still the majority decision for pubgoers watching a big night of boxing.

However, to what extent is the premiumisation of beer reflected among sport fans? Is quantity being replaced by quality?

MatchPint figures show that while the volume of beer sold to pub going football, rugby, boxing and American football fans has risen, there has also been a 25% uplift in the value.

Moreover, while lager still tops fan standings as the drink of choice of 44%, according to research by CGA Insight, craft beer is now the chosen tipple for more than one in 10 sports fans (13%) – overtaking traditional sporting brew Guinness, which, by comparison, is drunk by only 9%.

Beers

Bigger demand for better beer

Aidan O’Regan, sales manager at London King’s Cross-based Two Tribes Brewery – which collaborated with YouTube football giant Copa90 to produce Match Day IPA beer for Russia 2018 – believes that craft and premium beers are only going to become more commonly drunk by sports fans.

“As craft beer is more and more becoming the norm, supermarkets have it more readily available. It only makes sense that people are going to get bored of the Carlsbergs, Carlings, Heinekens, etc, at big stadiums – and there is going to be increased demand for better beer,” he argues.

This is a trend that clubs, brewers and even the players themselves are starting to tap into. Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday have linked up with Magic Rock Brewery and Thornbridge respectively to produce match day brews, while Ballon D’or nominee and four-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale has collaborated with Cardiff based SA Brain to produce Bale Ale.

A Brains spokesperson explains: “Like many other brewers, we recognise that more drinkers are looking for interest and variety in their beer choices and this applies just as much to sports fans watching the big game as it does to friends enjoying a quiet night out.”

On Two Tribes’ own collaboration with Copa90, a YouTube channel that’s amassed almost 1.7m subscribers, O’Regan comments: “I don’t think it would have been something that would have worked 18 months ago – I don’t think there would have been enough places willing to take it.

“Now craft beer is becoming more popular, it’s something that can be taken more seriously.

“Craft beer pubs and bottle shops may not have been bothered about football and beer before – a lot of them would quite happily have kept them separate.”

North London craft brewery Beavertown’s announcement that it is to open a microbrewery at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is a potential watershed in fan drinking, according to O’Regan – a Spurs season ticket holder.

“Beavertown at Spurs’ new stadium is a big step in the right direction and, hopefully, something that even smaller grounds across the country will take notice of and partner up with their local breweries,” he says.

“I see that as a natural pathway for sure. Once people start drinking the different craft beers, it is difficult to step back.

“There are plenty of good UK breweries out there making good lagers. I only see it as a matter of time before they get partnered up with football, rugby and cricket clubs whatever it may be.”

Tailored offers

However, despite dominating possession, beer is by no means the exclusive drink of choice for sports fans. Granted one in three drinks bought during the 2018 World Cup was beer according to CGA, this still leaves plenty of fans plumping for alternatives at the bar.

This is backed by MatchPint data which, in its Value of Sport research with CGA, revealed respective 23% and 9% uplifts in value of spirts and wine sold during Six Nations rugby matches, while spirit volumes sold during American football matches almost doubled – with value climbing 66%.

Stuart Green of the Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham, west London, the world-famous rugby pub, explains: “Having been there for more than 20 years, there’s certainly more women and children that come here now so we’ve slightly tailored the offers to make sure that we’re accommodating everybody,” he acknowledges.

“Years ago, you’d get to the bar and shorten your range to bitter, lager or Guinness – now we offer a full range of spirits, soft drinks, bottled drinks and far more cider is drunk.

“All fans seem to change their habits a bit and go off the draught, with perhaps a G&T or a spirit and mixer.”

The Cabbage Patch-15

The shift towards higher quality and a broader variety is something that Liz Reece of Cafe Football in Stratford, east London - a regular match day haunt for visitors to the London Stadium to watch West Ham in action - has witnessed first hand.

"Changes have certainly been noted over the last 15 months in the tastes of your ‘average sports bar enthusiast.’ Less inclined to grab the cheapest pint regulars have become far more eclectic in their taste," she says.

"Our American draught amber lager at 5.2% ABV is now one of our top sellers and our guests are often found picking out the more obscure craft beers on the list as opposed to downing any old pint.

"Naturally our eight pint beer towers still go down a storm on match days but I am often surprised at the amount of decent red wine I take to a lot of our West Ham regular tables.

"Football enthusiasts appreciate quality as much as any other customer. At Cafe Football we like to push the boundaries and capture their imaginations with bespoke cocktails or punches with football themed names to make them laugh.

"This Christmas we’re hoping instead of the usual mulled wine that our ‘Can You Kick it' seasonal punch will capture our guests imaginations and, as we usually find, they are not too set in their ways to try something new. Naturally I can’t reveal the entire recipe but the combination of thyme, whiskey, Chambord and tea knocks the socks off anything you traditionally find stewing in the soup kettle around the December madness."

November fixture focus: England and the Autumn Internationals

England and Wales will be up against some tough opposition in the Autumn Internationals this month in preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan

Rugby

While not always enjoying the same publicity as Premier League football or a big night of boxing, rugby union is an increasingly important money-spinner for pubs, with last year’s Autumn Internationals seeing a 4% year-on-year sales uplift, according to MatchPint.

While Wales are unbeaten in five tests since a 10-point defeat to eventual Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland in February, and with every reason to be positive ahead of their November fixtures, things look less rosy for Eddie Jones’s injury-hit England.

Stuart Green of world-famous rugby watering hole the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham, west London, predicts: “My heart says England will come good, but my head says it will be a tough autumn. Even with home advantage.”

Looking ahead to England’s fixtures, which get under way against South Africa at Twickenham on 3 November before clashes with New Zealand, Japan and Australia, Green says: “The All Blacks are phenomenal. If they bring their A-game they’re a struggle for anyone, but equally they’ve lost a couple of games over the summer, so they are beatable.

“Japan is a very interesting tie being that we’ll be over there next year for the World Cup and it was Eddie Jones’s former side. Then we’ve got the old foe in Australia to finish the series – I don’t think they’ve won at Twickenham for a long time. It’s going to be very interesting to have the big three southern hemisphere sides in one month. November is just a joy for any rugby enthusiasts.”

It’s no doubt a joy for publicans too. On average, rugby fans’ pub visits last 15 minutes longer than those of football fans with spend per head, on average, 12% higher, according to MatchPint. “It helps trade in the sense that people get in early to catch matches and will stay longer to catch the last games through into the night,” says Green.

“The Six Nations just edges it every year because they’re slightly bigger games – when you’ve got two home nations playing together, it’s always going to help – but those autumn tests are among some of the biggest days we’ll ever have at the Cabbage Patch.”

Warren Gatland’s Wales, meanwhile, face two of the same southern hemisphere sides – Australia and South Africa – with Scotland and Tonga thrown in for good measure.

Ahead of November's Autumn Internationals, Stonegate pub the Minories in Tower Hill, London, will host a panel of World Cup winners and rugby legends Will Greenwood, Sean Fitzpatrick, Maggie Alphonsi and Michael Lynagh on 1 November in Sky Sports' ‘The Swing Low Pub Show’ to preview next month's fixtures.

Simon Longbottom, chief executive of Stonegate Pub Company commented: “Our passion for sport and great sporting occasions enables us to bring each occasion alive and offer our customers the best in sports delivery and sports service. Hosting icons such as Will, Sean, Maggie and Michael brings our customers closer to their hero’s as we continue to create memorable sporting occasions in our pubs.”

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