World Cup final: Councils must do ‘everything they can’ to help pubs open an hour early for England v Spain clash, minister says


World Cup final: Councils must do 'everything they can' to help pubs open an hour early for England v Spain clash, minister says

Michael Gove has written to councils asking them to do “everything they can” to help pubs open earlier on Sunday so Britons can enjoy the Women’s World Cup final.

Pubs can choose when they open on Sundays, but the time from which they can start selling alcohol varies depending on each pub’s individual licence.

Ministers have rejected calls from the Liberal Democrats to recall parliament and relax laws around alcohol licencing, but the levelling up secretary has urged local councils to help pubs open before kick-off “so people can come together and enjoy a drink”.

Mr Gove said: “The whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966.

“I’ve asked councils to do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion.”

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said most pubs can start serving alcohol from 11am – which is when the Lionesses will face Spain – but it is calling for the law to be relaxed so football fans can enjoy a drink from 10am.

Emma McClarkin, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “As England enter their first World Cup final since 1966 we need the government to step in and allow the necessary regulatory easement to allow pubs to serve the public from 10am on final day, so fans and communities can come together and cheer the Lionesses to victory at the best place to watch live sport, the pub.”

“Where there’s a will, there has to be a way,” she added.

Conservative MP Alun Cairns, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, echoed the call, saying: “Early opening and serving would be a fitting tribute to the Lionesses and a welcome boost to the industry. I have raised the issue with the home secretary directly who is looking in to see what is possible.

“We need to do all we can to support the team, whilst at the same time backing our great British pubs.”

Temporary changes to licensing laws in England and Wales have been made for special events in the past, such as the Euro 2020 final and the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

World Cup final: Councils must do 'everything they can' to help pubs open an hour early for England v Spain clash, minister says

Under the Licensing Act 2003, tweaks to licensing laws have to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – both of which are currently in recess.

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to recall parliament and “score a last-minute winner for our pubs and the Lionesses” – but that call has been rejected.

World Cup final: Councils must do 'everything they can' to help pubs open an hour early for England v Spain clash, minister says

A government spokesperson told Sky News: “Recognising this momentous occasion, we want to encourage the police and local authorities to work together for maximum flexibility to make sure that the country can enjoy the match and get behind the Lionesses altogether.”

Recalling parliament would involve the taxpayer funding last-minute travel for both MPs and peers to return to Westminster, which would likely be very expensive.

Pubs can still open from 10am, even if they cannot serve booze before kick-off at 11am.

They are able to apply for special licences to serve alcohol earlier than is permitted under their standard licence.

Although such applications generally take a number of days, Mr Gove has written to leaders of all councils in England asking them to help pubs that want to serve alcohol earlier by speeding up the process, in cooperation with local police forces.

Separately, the Labour Party is calling on the government to give the public an extra bank holiday if the Lionesses win on Sunday and has launched a petition for the public to sign.

World Cup final: Councils must do 'everything they can' to help pubs open an hour early for England v Spain clash, minister says

Despite widespread public calls, there has never been an extra bank holiday after a sporting achievement – and it is not on the cards this time either.

A government spokesperson told Sky News on Wednesday: “Winning the World Cup would be a massive moment for the country and make no mistake we’ll find the right way to celebrate.

“As [England manager] Sarina Wiegman herself has said, the first thing to do is focus on the final and the whole country will be rooting for the Lionesses this weekend.”

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The government resisted calls for an extra bank holiday last summer ahead of the Lionesses’ Euros victory, and there was no support for one ahead of the men’s team’s Euro 2020 final in 2021.

A House of Commons library report from 2010 estimated that a bank holiday costs the UK economy £2.9bn, and with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prioritising economic growth, he is unlikely to be in favour.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer will travel to Sydney for the final, but there are no plans for Mr Sunak to attend, Sky News understands.

Kensington Palace has also confirmed to Sky News the Prince of Wales – who is chair of the Football Association – will not be travelling to watch the final either.


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