How are sports fans' eating habits changing?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Standing room only: many sports fans will be standing so food that is easy to eat is a must
Standing room only: many sports fans will be standing so food that is easy to eat is a must
Sports fans have long congregated in pubs to capture the atmosphere during big TV clashes, and they have long needed feeding while they were there. But time never stands still, so how has sports pub food changed in recent years?

Fixture list – 14 – 28 January

Monday 14 January

Premier League - Manchester City v Wolves – Sky Sports

Monday 14 January – Tuesday 15 January​ – Test Cricket – South Africa v Pakistan – Sky Sports

Monday 14 January – Sunday 27 January -​ Australian Open tennis – Eurosport

Tuesday 15 January and Wednesday 16 January​ – FA Cup Third Round replays – BT Sport and BBC

Thursday 17 January

NBA - Washington Wizards v New York Knicks – Sky Sports

Friday 18 January

EFL Championship - Norwich City v Birmingham City – Sky Sports

Champions Cup Rugby – Newcastle Falcons v RC Toulon – BT Sport

Champions Cup Rugby – Edinburgh v Montpellier – BT Sport

Saturday 19 January

Premier League – Wolves v Leicester City – Sky Sports

Premier League – Arsenal v Chelsea – BT Sport

EFL Championship – Swansea City v Sheffield United – Sky Sports

Test Cricket – South Africa v Pakistan – Sky Sports

Quad Series Netball – England v South Africa – Sky Sports

NBA – Philadelphia 76ers v Oklahoma City Thunder – Sky Sports

Champions Cup Rugby – Saracens v Glasgow Warriors – BT Sport

Champions Cup Rugby – Leicester Tigers v Ulster Rugby – BT Sport

Champions Cup Rugby – Castres v Gloucester – BT Sport

Champions Cup Rugby – Munster v Exeter – BT Sport

Sunday 20 January

Premier League – Huddersfield Town v Manchester City – Sky Sports

Premier League – Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur – Sky Sports

Quad series Netball – England v Australia – Sky Sports

Champions Cup Rugby – Wasps v Leinster – BT Sport

Champions Cup Rugby – Toulouse v Bath – BT Sport

Monday 21 January

EFL Championship – Bolton v West Brom – Sky Sports

NBA – New York Knicks v Oklahoma City Thunder – Sky Sports

NBA – Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans – Sky Sports

Tuesday 22 January

Test Cricket – South Africa v Pakistan – Sky Sports

Wednesday 23 January – Sunday 27 January​ – West Indies v England Test Series – Sky Sports

The few footballing analogies that revolve around food are far from likely to set fans’ stomachs rumbling or have them reaching for a prawn sandwich.


“The winger’s got him on toast”, “it’s hit the beans and bounced out”, “the attacker’s sent him for a hot dog” and “as a ’keeper that’s your bread and butter” hardly suggest a rich culinary culture in sport.

However, as argued by Paul Dutnall, area operations director at ETM Group – whose portfolio includes the 2018 John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards sport category-nominated Greenwood – sports fans’ eating habits have definitely changed over recent years.

“They are more discerning when it comes to food options, but are still on the lookout for quick and easy choices that do not distract them from watching the match,” he says.

“[As a result] pubs and sports bars are becoming more food-orientated to meet this demand.

“At the Greenwood and the Long Arm (both in central London), we have always offered a varied menu catering for a diverse crowd, offering dishes that ensure quick service, adapting menus to suit both seated and standing as well as creating innovative, themed dishes, depending on the occasion.

“In the upstairs Sports Lounge at Greenwood, we now serve burgers wrapped in paper and pizzas in pizza boxes, to ensure our sports fans can enjoy the game standing up while sipping a pint, in a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.

“We also provide themed sharing platters for tables (e.g., striker’s platter, Italia ’90) and often create specials for high-profile sporting events such as ‘sangria and churros’ for the Spanish football matches during the World Cup, Guinness-themed food for Six Nations rugby and turkey and pumpkin specials for the NFL Thanksgiving game.

“Gone are the days of a pint and a bag of pork scratchings – sport doesn’t need to mean cheap or bad food!”

Quality and experience

At Club Wembley’s two pubs, the Three Lions and the Lioness, sports fans visiting the home of English football told operators that they sought a more relaxed pre-match eating environment.

According to Paul Scannell, head of hospitality at The Football Association: “The delicious gastropub menu has been a real hit – we have six choices on the menu. Most of these are handheld – e.g. burgers or nachos. That’s in part because this type of food is really popular – burgers are always a pre-game favourite. It also allows us to be a bit more flexible with where we can serve food.

“While the Lioness has capacity for 1,000 people, there are 500 seats, but that doesn’t mean only 500 people want food. We regularly serve up to 1,000 people before a game, so creating dishes that can be consumed while standing up is a must.

“We also have the added pressure that no one wants to be served their food during the game in our pubs as they want to get the match experience. We have to serve 1,000 people within two hours – that’s less than one minute to serve each meal. Our head chef Harry Lomas and his team do a great job of creating a menu that is quick to serve, while maintaining the top quality and premium experience our members expect.


“We tweak our menus depending on the game that’s taking place to keep the menu fresh and relevant for the audience. For example, during NFL games, the menus gave a nod to American cuisine with the addition of Dirty Beets (a beetroot burger) among other things.

“Knowing that sports fans are looking for more than just tasty food and want a great experience, we’ve applied this to our drinks o­ffer too with ‘pour your own’ pints, which is a very popular attraction.

“We’ve also created a street food inspired experience for our Centre Circle members that proves you don’t have to just create burgers and your usual pub grub. Street food is typically at the forefront of culinary innovation, so it’s a great way for our members to enjoy food that’s new, exciting, authentic and high quality.

“From tenderised beef bavette served with a warm salad of asparagus, butternut squash and new potatoes, to teriyaki hot salmon with a mixed avocado, mango, pomegranate and celeriac salad – it’s quick to serve, easy to eat and options we know sports fans enjoy.”

Does the FA Cup still drive pub footfall?

Has the oldest cup competition in world football finally lost its shine?


Discussions on how to revamp the FA Cup – fi rst won by Wanderers Football Club in 1872 after they beat Royal Engineers 1-0 at the Kennington Oval in London and, at one time, held by Oxford University – have come to the fore in recent years as the competition has drifted into afterthought for the majority of England’s top-tier sides.

Since the introduction of the Premier League in 1992, only seven teams have won the competition – with Wigan and Portsmouth being the only two outside of the Premier League’s upper echelons to do so. By contrast, in the 10 years before the Premier League was founded, six teams won the FA Cup, including Wimbledon, Coventry City and Tottenham.

The vast majority of Premier League sides rotated their squads heavily in the competition’s third round during the first weekend of January, the new year staple that sees sides from England’s top two divisions enter the competition, with Fulham, Leicester, Cardiff and Huddersfield paying the price against lower league opposition, and Liverpool and Bournemouth also exiting.

From a financial perspective, it’s easy to see why the competition has fallen down the list of priorities. Had Leicester City beaten Newport County at the weekend, their cash prize excluding any TV money would have been £135,000 whereas they gain an extra £1.9m in prize money for each position they finish closer to the Premier League’s summit – £100,000 more than the £1.8m sum awarded to the FA Cup’s runner-up.

A dagger to the heart of football’s romantics, it’s hard to make a fi nancial case for prioritising an FA Cup run over league fixtures. Yet figures from last season suggest there’s still money in the FA Cup for pubs, and that fans still care.

Last season, £43.4m was spent in pubs and bars across the country during the FA Cup’s semi-finals  - Manchester United v Tottenham and Chelsea v Southampton – with £8m spent in London pubs alone and pubs in the City of London 34% busier than average, according to Worldpay.

Moreover, despite sharing the day with the most watched TV spectacle of 2018, attracting 13.1m viewers – the Royal Wedding between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – last season’s final was watched by, on average, 6.7m people – peaking at 8.7m.

So don’t forget, just because two of the players fielded by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during their third round exit to Wolves aren’t old enough to prop up your bar doesn’t mean that fans of drinking age won’t do so given the chance.

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