Community / Culture & Tourism / Pubs / 06 September 2019

Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match

A version of this article first appeared in Propel Friday Opinion.


I have always been passionate about sport – both playing it and watching it. In fact, this passion led to me running the Business in Sport and Leisure association for 17 years and even writing a book on public and private sporting partnerships.

In my 10 years at the BBPA, a real privilege of my role has been to promote pubs and sport. For me, the two are inextricably linked. There is no better place to watch live sport on the TV than the great British Pub. Major sporting events, like the FIFA World Cup, also provide a big boost for pubs.

Of course, there is more uniting sports and pubs than just watching matches on the television. For many sports teams, the pub acts as an extension of the clubhouse. For others, it is the place to go for a game of darts, pool or snooker.

As pub goers, we have always known of this relationship between pubs and sport. Never before though have we explored how deep it runs. Until now – with the “Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match” report – launched by the Sports Minister Nigel Adams MP in Parliament this week.

The report, written by beer writer and sports journalist Will Hawkes for PubAid, with support from the BBPA and the Sport & Recreation Alliance, gives us for the first time a full picture of the diverse and socially significant relationship between pubs and sports.

The main finding of the report was outstanding: pubs support grassroots sport to the value of £40 million each year.

And whilst local football, rugby and cricket teams get the lion’s share of that support according to the report, by no means do they get all of it. In fact, pubs across the UK are funding grassroots sports as diverse as curling, squash and skittles. One of the case studies in the report, The Golden Lion at Broad Oak in Kent, even supports Bat and Trap – the cousin of cricket but played in a pub garden with just 8 players a-side. Pubs like The Golden Lion are key to the success of lesser known sports like Bat and Trap, reflected by the fact that The Golden Lion is host to no less than 32 Bat and Trap teams from its local league.

This support that pubs give to grassroots sport isn’t just financial either, the report finds. Many pubs are actually helping grassroots sports by providing crucial in-kind support ranging from free room hire to post-match meals and everything in-between.

Take The Lion at Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, another case study from the report. What was once a boarded-up pub, which looked to have served its last pint until Adrian Emmett took it over, now supports over 15 different sports teams in the town, ranging from rugby and football to cricket, pool and tennis. What is perhaps most interesting about Adrian and his pub is the imaginative ways in which they give support to their local sports teams. The Lion will regularly host a BBQ in its back garden for the sports teams it supports, buying the food and offering it at cost price to the clubs, allowing them to keep whatever money they raise. They also offer teams free tickets to the pub’s comedy club, letting them sell them on and keep the proceeds, all whilst driving footfall into the pub.

The support that pubs give to sports teams reinforces the vital role they play at the heart of our communities across the UK. As someone who hugely believes in personal development through sport, for life, I was particularly touched by the amazing support of The Butler’s Arms in Pleasington, Lancashire. Another case study from the report.

The Butler’s Arms support Blokes United, a football social inclusion scheme, often for those with mental health issues. The pub has raised almost £5,000 for Blokes United since February 2018, which has paid for pitch hire, kit, and food and hot drinks every Thursday after matches. Next on the list is raising £6,000 for a minibus for away matches. Michael Hales, the owner of The Butler’s Arms puts it best: ‘As a pub in the heart of the community; it is about giving something back. It makes a difference.”

For any publicans – or anyone working in hospitality for that matter – inspired by the fantastic support these pubs are giving to sports, please do read the “Pubs and Sport: The Perfect Match” report. It includes many valuable tips for sports clubs looking for support from a pub, as well as pubs or other hospitality businesses who’d like to do more to support their local community through sport.

Written by

Brigid Simmonds

Chief Executive

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