How can sport pubs help tackle poor fan behaviour?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Match day staple: 'Visiting the great British pub is central to the match-day experience' according to The British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds
Match day staple: 'Visiting the great British pub is central to the match-day experience' according to The British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds
Given pubs are a firm fixture in fans’ match-day experience, and in light of shocking recent instances of spectators interrupting football matches to confront players, we ask what role pubs play in tackling trouble at football

Fixture list – 25 March – 8 April

Thursday 28 March

Betfred Super League Rugby League – Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers – Sky Sports

Friday 29 March

Rugby Union Challenge Cup – Sale Sharks v Connacht Rugby – BT Sport

EFL Championship football – West Brom v Birmingham City – Sky Sports

Betfred Super League Rugby League – Hull FC v Warrington Wolves – Sky Sports

Saturday 30 March and Sunday 31 March

Formula One - Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Sky Sports

Saturday 30 March

Premier League – West Ham v Everton – BT Sport

Premier League – Fulham v Manchester City – Sky Sports

EFL Championship – Middlesbrough v Norwich City – Sky Sports

Champions Cup Rugby Union – Saracens v Glasgow Warriors – BT Sport

Challenge Cup Rugby Union – Worcester v Harlequins – BT Sport

Super-welterweight boxing – Liam Smith v Sam Eggington – Sky Sports

NBA basketball – Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings – Sky Sports

Sunday 31 March

Challenge Cup Rugby Union – La Rochelle v Bristol – BT Sport

Challenge Cup Rugby Union – Clermont v Northampton – BT Sport

Scottish Premiership – Celtic v Rangers – Sky Sports

Premier League – Cardiff City v Chelsea – Sky Sports

Checkatrade Trophy Final – Portsmouth v Sunderland – Sky Sports

Premier League – Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur – Sky Sports

NBA basketball – Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks – Sky Sports

Monday 1 April

Premier League – Arsenal v Newcastle United – Sky Sports

Superleague netball – Strathclyde Sirens v Manchester Thunder – Sky Sports

Tuesday 2 April

Premier League – Wolves v Manchester United – Sky Sports

Thursday 4 April

Betfred Super League Rugby League – Hull KR v Leeds Rhinos – Sky Sports

Friday 5 April

Gallagher Premiership Rugby Union – Sale Sharks v Harlequins – BT Sport

Betfred Super League Rugby League – Castleford Tigers v Wigan Warriors – Sky Sports

Premier League – Southampton v Liverpool – Sky Sports

Saturday 6 April

FA Cup Semi Final – Manchester City v Brighton - BBC

Horse racing - Grand National – ITV

Gallagher Premiership Rugby Union – Bath Rugby v Bristol Bears – BT Sport

Gallagher Premiership Rugby Union – Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs – BT Sport

EFL Championship – Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers – Sky Sports

Betfred Super League Rugby League – Catalans Dragons v St Helens – Sky Sports

NBA basketball – Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets – Sky Sports

Sunday 7 April

FA Cup Semi Final – Watford v Wolves – BT Sport

The Boat Race – BBC

Gallagher Premiership Rugby Union – Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby – BT Sport

Premier League – Everton v Arsenal – Sky Sports

NBA basketball – Minnesota Timberwolves v Oklahoma City Thunder – Sky Sports

The knee-jerk reaction to Rangers’ James Tavernier, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Manchester United’s Chris Smalling being confronted during football matches may be to class these incidents as high-profile examples of people falling out of the pub, onto the terraces, and drunkenly causing trouble.

However, pubs have been working independently and with authorities for years to ensure fans arrive at their seats in the right frame of mind.

The Famous Three Kings in west London​ – the only three-time winner of the Great British Pub Awards sport category – for example, has, through manager Paul Eastwood and his experience of sports sociology, tackled confrontational aspects of the match-day experience that breed aggression by stressing to supporters that they visit his award-winning pub on passionate, yet peaceful, terms established by him and his staff.

The British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds adds: “Visiting the great British pub is central to the match-day experience and is enjoyed overwhelmingly by the majority of fans who behave responsibly.

Main feature image - Royal Dyche 2

“Pubs work hard with police and local authorities to support their football clubs but, ultimately, it is football clubs and their stadium security that have an obligation to ensure players are safe, including stopping disruptive individual fans – who are very much in the minority – trying to get on the pitch.”

Create a positive atmosphere

Justine Lorriman of the Royal Dyche – named after current Clarets boss Sean Dyche – in Burnley, Lancashire, adds: “It’s disgraceful what happened, and also a huge shame that the small minority give football fans a bad name when something like this happens, being a football fan myself.

“It does need highlighting as a big problem so this cannot happen again.

“You always want a positive matchday experience in your premises, we found our jukebox plays a good part in this – building a warm atmosphere and putting fans in a good mood for the game through music.

“We also have a lot of families with children, as we feel football should be a fun family day out and welcome them in. Monitoring people’s alcohol and encouraging responsible drinking would also play a role, you don’t want people turning up to the stands drunk.

“Pubs in Burnley already work closely with their local authorities and police, we see the same faces from the police week in, week out, who do regular pub checks before and after the game – making sure everything is OK in your premises and that there are no issues.

“It’s nice to familiarise these faces in the police force and gives us some reassurance we have their support in the safety of our customers.

“These incidents were inside the football grounds, so maybe more stewards and better training for them would prevent fans from entering the playing field and incidents like would not happen?”

Police meeting publicans

“Yes, it was quite sad to see the events over the past weeks occurring and it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or even killed,” according to Martin Whelan of the Tollington in north London – a short walk from Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium where a supporter invaded the pitch to confront Manchester United’s Chris Smalling.

“I believe if you’ve got a person, or persons, intent on creating public disorder there has to be much harsher penalties for this particular kind of o­ffence.

Main feature image - The Tollington 2

“In Islington, over the past year, the police and council have been organising meetings with publicans throughout the borough making us all aware of the rise in the ‘far right movement’ and what to look out for, which is a good thing.

“Unfortunately in today’s world it seems anyone in a certain mindset will do anything to get their faces out there, especially if the game is on TV – a prison stretch is the best solution for them.

“Season ticket holders who support their clubs do not want to bring disrepute to their own doors and do not want to see their clubs penalised with a points deduction.

“You see that idiot that assaulted Grealish was still able to post some vile stuff­ on social media after he’d been arrested – one sick boy who ruined a great football game.

“If there continues to be an increase in incidents like we have seen, clubs will have to have a bigger police presence on match days and the true football fans will bear the brunt of it in rises to the cost of their season tickets,” Whelan continues. “It’s unfair but unfortunately it’s the world we now live in – quite sick really.”

Case study: The Grand National at the Running Horse, Mayfair, London

Running horse

“The Grand National is the busiest day of the year for us by a long way,” Dom Jacobs of the Running Horse in Mayfair, London, explains. “I think it’s something crazy like a third of all people in the UK of betting age will bet on The Grand National and, obviously, they’re not all at Aintree.

“During the week before, we tend to do preview evenings. The typical format of it is getting a panel of racing experts in who discuss the form of the horses and who they’re looking out for. It’s a nice lead-up to the event. The week before, we’ll know who’s running and then we’ll work on who can be the commentators and arrange the evening around that. It’s a really good way to drive footfall and a nice bit of added value for guests.

“On the day itself, inevitably it’s going to be big groups of people coming in to enjoy the racing and make a day of it, particularly for The Grand National. The atmosphere is incredible if you’ve got the hooves of the horses running, it really does build an incredible buzz in the venue.

“We often have menu items that are designed specifically for it, and racing packages where people can buy, for example, a bottle of gin with mixers or a bottle of Champagne. They get a discount on the packages, which is ultimately great for us because they’re committing to a certain spend and it’s great for them because they’ve got a nice package laid out for them and they save money versus going to the bar – and they don’t have to keep going back and forth for their drinks.

“You’ve also got to consider that a number of customers are going to win bets, and if people win a lot of money they’re going to celebrate. We try to do after parties upstairs and make a full day of it as there’s not an awful lot else going on during that weekend in April. It’s like Christmas for us.”

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