Pubs set to cash in on weekend of sport as COVID-19 cases rise in the UK


The next England game is on Saturday evening, which could hardly be a better time for it to be scheduled so far as the pubs are concerned.

England fans need little encouragement to spend all day in the pub boozing ahead of a big game but if they did need extra incentive, there is also the Wimbledon tennis tournament to watch plus the Euro 2020 hors d’oeuvre (from an England fan’s perspective) of the Czech Republic v Denmark, which kicks off at tea-time on Saturday.

On top of which there is a British Lions rugby game scheduled for Saturday in Johannesburg while for the more cerebral sporting enthusiast, there is a one-day cricket international between England and Sri Lanka.

Who knows? Some pubs might even be showing the Tour de France, where there is also a bit of British interest as Chris Cavendish looks to do the unthinkable and match a record held by Belgian legend, Eddie Merckx.

The mercurial Merckx won 34 individual stages of the Tour de France between 1969 and 1975 and Cavendish, after winning Tuesday’s stage, is currently on 31. Not bad for a 36-year-old bloke who was diagnosed in 2017 with the Epstein-Barr virus, which can cause glandular fever.

Ingerland the main event

Some reports suggest 20mln viewers will watch the England game, either at home or down the old dub-a-dub.

Those who stay at home are likely to be stocking up on pizzas, beer, burgers, beer, crisps and beer, which is great news for the supermarkets while others too lazy even to do a bit of supermarket shopping will be relying on cyclists somewhat less well remunerated than the Tour de France boys to deliver grub ordered from local restaurants.

It would be hard to begrudge the hard-pressed pubs industry enjoying the weekend festival of sport – Sunday will see Formula One racing, more tennis and more Tour de France – but the call by Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of London-focused pubs group Young & Co’s Brewery PLC (LON:YNGA) for the government to lift physical distancing rules for England’s remaining games sounds like someone pushing his luck, and not just because the request assumes England will beat Ukraine.

Yesterday, Britain recorded more new cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world apart from India, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for better monitoring of Euro 2020 football matches.

“Perhaps the PM [prime minister] will allow the country to celebrate our potential biggest football success since 1966 by relaxing the rules for the next three games,” Dardis suggested to London’s Evening Standard.

Given Boris Johnson’s track record on critical lockdown restrictions, perhaps he will.

Nick Mackenzie, the boss of the Greene King pubs group, sounds like a glass-half-empty guy, based on his grumbling in the Evening Standard.

“Capacity restraints mean we have still lost out on GBP1 million every England game in the group stages and if England make it to the final, we’re looking at a potential loss of GBP10 million from the tournament,” Mackenzie said.

It almost sounded like he’d be happier if England was to be eliminated from the tournament on Saturday.

Then again, his name is Mackenzie.


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