I walk past a pub and it’s got an enormous blue and red canopy flapping in the wind. The banner announces that this pub shows Sky Sports live. Outside the pub across the street they’ve got an A-board chalked to tell me that they show all major sporting events live. A board beside it says Notts County vs Hartlepool 12.45 LIVE (‘all major sporting events’). Through the windows of both I see bright green squares glowing over the blank stares of the pub-goers.
Seeing a ‘Football shown here’ sign is one of the best ways for me to know whether or not to avoid a pub; if it’s there then I don’t want to go in. For me, that sign says it’s going to be filled with people shouting at the screen while throwing lager down their throats. They will also probably have karaoke on in the evening. And they won’t serve any decent beer. Two pubs near me are exactly like this. In two years I’ve drunk the total volume of two pints between the two pubs (admittedly this was watching the first half of an England World Cup game – we left at half time to watch it in Wetherspoons because it had a better atmosphere).
I like live sport in pubs, especially if it’s a major event and England are playing. What I don’t like are pubs where the football is the only draw. And these pubs are often the ones with the big banners hanging outside. These banners might as well read ‘Drink somewhere else’.
Sport adds to the social lubricant of the beer – the banter that comes and goes, the way every drinker knows better than the team’s manager, the collective cheers or groans – but for me the TV is part of the background, not the foreground, where you can watch if you want but avoid it if you don’t.
Where do you stand on football in pubs? Do many really great pubs show games or do you have to go off-piste to see sport?