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?
I see both sides. When I was in school there was a bar that dubbed itself the "Official bar of the Pittsburgh Steelers" (an American football team). We were five hours from Pittsburgh—in another state—but, nonetheless every game the Steelers played a good sized crowd would show up wearing gold and black; drink their faces off; yell and hoot at the screen, and generally have a blast. I'm not a particularly big Steelers fan, but I do have to say it was a fun time.ReplyDelete
That being said, drunk jackasses living vicariously through the little sportsmen on the TV is another matter. Luckily, stateside we have the "sportsbar" and you know what you're going to get with that. American football, baseball and basketball on twenty screens and all the Bud, Bud Light and Coors Light, and Heineken you could ever want. Generally bars and pubs stick to that rule. If you want sports, go to a sportsbar, if not you can probalbly find a place that might have a game on, but usually it's in the background.
As I have drunk plenty of times in pubs that have had both Sky Sports and good beer I can't buy into this argument, even if the sky sports pubs and real ale pubs seem to be growing apart right now.ReplyDelete
In all honesty I don't see why real ale and pubs showing Sky Sports should be seperate anyway. Especially as I'd rather suffer watching Sheffield Wednesday in a pub then at home.
Craig - Interesting! I've been to a few sports bars. If baseball is on then it's fine with me because I love it, but otherwise I'm not fussed. Although, being in the US the novelty of different sports and networks is always appealing.ReplyDelete
Steve - I'd like to blame spell check but I wrote this at 5am so all I can blame is my sleep-deprived and booze-addled brain. I've corrected my misspelling.
T_i_B - I have only drunk in one and that was fine because the TV was on mute and it was small. What I dislike is pubs with 24 screens all showing the same thing and the music blaring. I'm certain there's a balance between the two but I haven't yet found it personally.ReplyDelete
As for Sheffield Wednesday... I can't comment because I'm a Gillingham fan!
Now that most people have Sky at home it's a certain type of drinker who goes to the pub to watch a game. That type tends to drink lager. I'm too polite to comment further.ReplyDelete
"Sky sports shown here" definitely means "walk on by" to me. I like to talk to my friends in pubs and having the TV on usually ruins that.ReplyDelete
Around here it's hard to find a pub that doesn't have Sky Sports, to be honest - see here. And my local pub, while very good in many respects, is a complete no-go area when City or United are playing :-(ReplyDelete
Most people don't have Sky. If they did, pubs wouldn't bother with it at all. And even those that do have it don't always want to pay the premium that Sky charge. That is why pubs can still do well with it. There is also a social aspect to watching it in the pub which is the reason I do it.
On the general subject, I know exactly the kind of pub you are on about, but you really are talking a very specific type. Many great pubs do indeed show football. My local for one. It shifts some of the highest barrelage of real ale in the country, but has no problem combining that with showing foorball. However, it doesn't do karaoke, have wall to wall TVs, or have the volume up unnecessarily.
I think the general rule is "Sky Sports here" = walk on. But there are exceptions as Tyson says and judicious use of sports can be worthwhile to a pub and be very sociable while watching the match.ReplyDelete
Far more annoying is daytime - or other tv - put on while clearly nobody is watching it. That is a big put off for me.
It's a difficult one - and this is coming from someone who's a sports fan. I'm lucky enough to have Foley's in leeds, which manages that tricky task of serving great beer and show sport without attracting the dickheads that many people associate with Sky Sports. I personally think it's this balance that's the main issue, not the provision of sport itself - after all, if in a pub and you want to watch the game, you should be able to. I think it's the ones who don't who then feel a little marginalised and a little pushed out. Sport creates emotion, and combined with a beer (or four) that sometimes gets a bit...passionate. I love it, personally, but can understand how it makes others feel.ReplyDelete
I think the problem often is not so much that sport is shown, but that it ends up taking over the whole pub. Back in the day we had separate public bars for that sort of thing...ReplyDelete
If the footie is not your cup of tea, jog on the the old man's pub up the road. Leave the rest of us to enjoy it.ReplyDelete
A few years ago, I used to frequent local pubs with my brother to watch Spurs on the rare occasion they were on the box. That was until one especially feisty North London Derby at a posh-ish Fullers house, when he bellowed a particularly inappropriate and repeated insult at Arsene Wenger. I didn't trust him again after that and we've been subscribers ever since.ReplyDelete
Now I'll only occasionally seek out sport in pubs when we're out of the area. I do think a clear distinction should be made between places where the football (and yobbos) consume all and those where it's there as a take-it-or-leave-it bit of background relief. The latter doesn't bother me, the former I actively avoid.
In many ways, I agree with what Cookie says. You can always leave. a bit blunt, maybe, but the fact is Sky Sports brings in money for Landlords.ReplyDelete
I think, though, that there are a lot of pubs that only have it because they're frightened of losing trade if they didn't, and it doesn't in practice bring in a lot of money for them. As I said in the blogpost I linked to, it often seems to be a case of waiting for the other guy to blink first.ReplyDelete
I've certainly had decent pints in decent pubs while watching football - the King William IV in Leyton, next to the Brodie's brewery, springs to mind straight away. A brilliant way to spend/waste a weekend afternoon.ReplyDelete
But yeah, anywhere with a massive banner of that sort outside has to be a no-no for me. I suppose in a way it's sad that a lot of traditional locals' pubs now have to rely on nothing but subscription TV and shit beer in order to survive (or feel that they do), so if nothing else at least it's another pub kept alive.
While the Coach and Horses in Dronfield never had the live football on inside, it's backyard was the World's First Football Club and a lot of it was played outside. The beer selection there was pretty good if I recall... a Thornbridge beer or five... :)ReplyDelete
Generally its a walk on by. Added to which if the sign says Good Food Served Here it's a case of we have a microwave and food in plastic bagsReplyDelete
For me, there are places I'll specifically go to watch sport (call them pubs if you will, sometimes it's a stadium) and there are specific places that I'll go to drink good beer (call them pubs, bars, brewpubs, whatever). When the two cross over and are able to compliment each other, it's perfect.ReplyDelete
Mr Foleys in Leeds is probably the best pub in the city. It has excellent beer and football. Win-win.ReplyDelete