Given the cost of installing SKY TV or similar facilities at a pub can be prohibitive, you can hardly blame pub landlords getting twitchy, especially in an age when pubs are closing down every minute of the day.
What can they do about this situation in order to make the whole exercise worthwhile?
One way would be to forget the “cram the lads in and swill the beer” approach and to go for a more selective audience. We are in the era of the middle-class “expert”, after all, with craft beers and real ale two of the growth areas of the liquid refreshment sector. The average football fan is just at home with Bayern Munich and Juventus as he or she is watching Newcastle United or Tottenham.
Why not enhance the viewing experience? This could come in the form of “compered evenings”, with a local football aficianado hosting the evening and bringing a panel to the floor. Instead of the likes of Lineker, Shearer and Jenas, a live group could be created to provide their views and engage the crowd in real-time debate. They could preview the game, invite comments and even competitions could be run. OK, there may be restrictions on what can be done in terms of licence, but viewers could bet on the game and name their man of the match.
From the perspective of the pub or club itself, themed beer could be provided – for example, if it’s Newcastle v Norwich, you could have Newcastle Brown and something like Greene King (alright, it’s Suffolk, not Norfolk, but you get the idea). Or on European nights, German beer, Italian beer and so on and so forth. Food aswell could be sold to reflect the fixture on screen.
Make football the central point of the evening with other sideshows going on and the whole experience could become that more compelling. Come on, let’s give it a try…