Government does U-turn on World Cup licensing

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: World cup, Fifa world cup, Public house

Pubs could be allowed to stay open late during  England's World Cup games
Pubs could be allowed to stay open late during England's World Cup games
The government has made a U-turn on World Cup licensing, and will consult on whether to extend pub opening hours during the football tournament this summer.

The Home Office had rejected the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA)’s request to extend licensing hours​ across England and Wales during the World Cup because it was not an 'exceptional', 'one-off' event like the Queen's jubilee and royal wedding.

However, after widespread coverage of the issue in national press, Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he had 'ordered a rethink' on pub opening times for England's World Cup games, and would consult with the pub trade, police and councils.

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A Home Office spokesperson confirmed that the government will soon launch a consultation to "determine whether pubs should be able to extend their licensing hours during the World Cup 2014 in Brazil."

"Given the time difference between the UK and Brazil and the fact some matches kick off at 11pm, the consultation will cover late-night matches occurring on the opening weekend, the closing weekend of the World Cup 2014 and for England's 11pm matches," said the spokesperson.

"We will examine the responses to the consultation thoroughly and carefully before deciding how to proceed thereafter.”

Fantastic news

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s intervention, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “This would make for the most fantastic news for thousands of publicans and millions of football fans. I am delighted that the Prime Minister has intervened to back Britain’s pubs and make clear that England’s World Cup campaign is a time for celebration.

“This common sense decision would remove a great deal of bureaucracy for pubs and local councils – and makes clear that the best place to enjoy the England team’s journey is in your local pub. 

“We are absolutely thrilled that our efforts have made a real difference for football fans and pubs.”

Initial refusal

The BBPA applied for an extension to licensing hours during the Brazilian World Cup​ because the time difference means games will be screened later, limiting pubs' ability to cash in on the tournament.

However, Norman Baker MP ruled out a nationwide extension and called for pubs to apply for individual temporary event notice extensions if they wanted to show late games.

"It is our normal practice to only extend licensing hours under the Licensing Act 2003 in exceptional circumstances, usually for one-off events such as the golden jubilee rather than for prolonged periods,” he said.

Simmonds responded with a call for the government to reconsider the decision.

“For most people, pubs will be the best place to enjoy the live World Cup games in a great atmosphere. Given the time difference with Brazil, it would be a welcome boost for the industry.

"It would also spare thousands of pubs the cost, inconvenience, and uncertainly of applying individually for extensions to their opening hours."

Expensive alcohol

Meanwhile, new analysis from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) revealed that British fans watching sports in pubs and bars are paying as much as four times more than their European counterparts.

The WSTA calculated that English fans watching this Saturday’s England vs France rugby game will pay four times more for their drinks than fans in France due to ‘sky high’ alcohol duty.

The association calculated that the average drinker in England pays £198.33 in alcohol tax a year compared to just £43.17 in France, and pointed out that a bottle of wine in France is taxed at 20 per cent, while in the UK it is taxed at 57 per cent.  

Miles Beale, WSTA chief executive, said: “I will be cheering on England this weekend but won’t be raising a toast to the taxman. It is scandalous that British drinkers wanting to watch the Six Nations at their local, or at home, are having to fork out four times as much alcohol duty than their French counterparts. British drinkers should be able to enjoy a drink at their local without being hit by a punitive super tax.”

The WSTA renewed calls for people to support its ‘Call Time on Duty’ campaign​, which is calling for high alcohol taxes to be scrapped in the upcoming Budget.

Related topics: Business, Legislation, Pubs & Bars

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