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Pub landlords plead for supporters to NOT sing ‘It’s Coming Home!’

Pub landlords plead for supporters to NOT sing ‘It’s Coming Home!’ ahead of England’s much anticipated quarter-final clash against Ukraine.

Across the nation, bars and public houses will be hoping to gain extra income off the back of the televised fixture, but say they face a near-impossible task of trying to stop fans chanting and singing.

Strict Covid guidelines mean fans have to be seated at a table with no contact with supporters at other tables, no standing without a mask and no singing or chanting.

Pub landlords plead for supporters to NOT sing ‘It’s Coming Home!’ – Credit: Denise Bradley / Norwich Evening News

Even the volume from the big screen has to be at a level where people don’t have to raise their voices above it. No chance to police that right?!

“It’s like herding cats,” said Phil Cutter, landlord of The Murderers in Norwich. “It’s great to see fans excited but obviously we have a responsibility to keep people under control.

“We explain to people when they first come in what the rules are and that it is not us trying to make things awkward and that the restrictions are in place for a reason.”

He said dissuading fans from singing was trickiest. “The new thing is people banging on tables but you have to stop that before people get to ‘England!’” he said.

“If one person starts singing ‘It’s coming home’ you have to get them quieten down quickly before everyone else joins in, because as soon as they do you’re on a hiding to nothing!”

However, in Kingston-upon-Thames the Covid crisis has been tough for the Willoughby Arms, a sports pub, who are making the most of the good times.

Takings have been sharply down, and staff costs are higher, due to the need to provide table service.

However, the Euro 2020 football tournament has brought some welcome relief and have really helped the business, owner Rick Robinson said.

Rick Robinson

Credit: BBC

The pub is completely booked up for the England vs Ukraine match this weekend, and the tournament is a much-needed shot in the arm, he said.

“It has definitely helped,” he said. “I would describe it as a lifeline.”

Despite this, money coming in is still down on a normal year, in part due to less interest than usual in games that don’t involve England, he said.

In the last World Cup, the pub took £20,000 per week for two of the weeks, compared with normal £8,000 per week gross takings.

However, during Euro 2021, the highest gross takings have been £14,000 in a week.

Over lockdown, he says, earnings have been down between 30% and 40%, and staff costs have doubled.

Rick has had no choice but to bring in extra staff in for the game on Saturday. Whereas normally he would have one or two staff, he has nine to serve 160 customers in the pub and its garden.

The business has also had to cope with staff having to self-isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid. Sick days have quadrupled.

The business is just about keeping float with the help of government grants and loans, but is behind on its rent, which it has to pay “even though trade is down drastically”, he said.

However, Rick is hopeful that the business can stay open, saying: “I think the competition will drop because more pubs will close.”

Kim Adams, a publican at the Hinksford Arms, near Birmingham, said: “After a really difficult and uncertain 18 months the Euros has made a huge impact.

The pub, which is part of Punch Pubs, is “doing everything we can to make the most of the opportunity, and even have plans to expand our outdoor space and add additional screens if England make it to the final”, she said.

“The feedback we’ve had has been terrific, and we’re already fully booked, with people returning for future games.”

The Euros has led to a massive rise in sales for some pubs, according to Langton Capital principal analyst Mark Brumby.

He said data from mobile ordering app OrderPay suggested that pub sales had more than doubled since the beginning of the tournament.

“During the England vs Germany match drink sales at pubs increased 176% with the average spend at £21.70 per customer,” he added.

Pubs have seen a high demand for tables for the England game against Ukraine on Saturday, the Mitchells & Butlers chain said.

“We’ve had really strong booking interest for Saturday night with many pubs showing the game fully booked for the big game,” a Mitchells & Butlers spokesman said.

“However, although the Euros has given large parts of our sector a bit of an uplift, the current capacity constraints have meant we haven’t been able to take full advantage of the demand we’re seeing,” he added.

Pub chain Shepherd Neame recommend that people should book a table for the match “to avoid disappointment”.

Pubs expect to serve 19 million pints for the upcoming clash – but if restrictions had been lifted, that number would be around 24 million pints, the BBPA said.

The difference “could be the difference to survival or closure for some”, said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have struggled with staff having to self-isolate after being contacted through the Test and Trace app.

“Already pubs are closing or greatly reducing their opening hours due to staff shortages caused by app pings – despite staff testing negative on lateral flow tests,” she said.

A government spokesperson said: “Public safety must remain our priority and pubs should continue to adhere to current rules, including keeping noise at a low volume and ensuring social distancing is maintained at all times.

“We are doing everything we can to back hospitality as it reopens, including offering pubs brand new Restart Grants worth up to £18,000 – part of our much wider £352bn support package.”

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