Monday, 13 February 2017

Really? Every pub is showing the bloody Six Nations?

I am, I admit, a classic ‘two-pint punter’ when comes to watching football at the pub. I have a friend who’s a regular attendee at Chelsea home games, and we tend to meet at the pub to watch away games such as the fixture at Burnley last Sunday lunchtime (Feb 12 2017 for any future historian archiving this). We typically have a pint during the first half and another during the second and then it’s back to the rigours of family life.

That doesn’t, I know, make us the most profitable customers as far as pubs are concerned, but there are plenty of times during the cold, dark winter months when our custom is appreciated. Not, however, once February arrives and the bloody Six Nations rugby gets going.

For the past few seasons, our pub of choice for Chelsea games has been the Greyhound Hotel in Carshalton. Even there, following a refurb and new menu launch, this season football viewers have been shunted from the main bar into a smaller area, on the basis that it creates more room for high spending customers who are eating, rather than low-rent football fans.

This week, though, not even that much was on offer. With Burnley v Chelsea kicking off at 1.30 on Sunday lunchtime and the France v Scotland rugby at 3, we thought we might have a window of opportunity, but it was clear from a cursory glance through the window of the Greyhound that it was all about the build-up to the rugby.

So, we walked on. 250 yards along the road is the Woodman Wine Bar. Although displaying its share of Six Nations paraphernalia donated by various beer brands around the bar, the TV screen itself was showing the football, which was just kicking off as we walked in.

We found a table and ordered our pints. I had eaten, but my mate ordered a sausage baguette making us, I’d have thought, an attractive proposition spend-wise.      
As a digression, I know I shouldn’t have too high an expectation of beer quality from an establishment that calls itself a wine bar, but on my infrequent visits over the years the Woodman has usually managed to serve a decent pint. Not so at the weekend, although it does display a current Cask Marque accreditation.

The pint of Caledonian Golden XPA I had during the first half was liberally laced with diacetyl, while the Adnams Southwold I switched to for the second was all about the phenol. I can still taste the TCP.
Given that it also took the best part of an hour for the sausage baguette to arrive, and in the meantime we were treated to the regular spectacle of staff wandering around the bar calling out the names of dishes they hoped to match with a customer - “Chips!” (hopefully) “Cheesy chips?”  “No, just chips!”  -  I’m going to charitably assume that we caught the Woodman on a bad day.

Back to my main gripe. With the score level at half time, there TV picture suddenly changed and instead of the half time analysis we were watching the build-up to the rugby. A few of us gently remonstrated with the manager.
I could sympathise with his dilemma. He’d put up the paper flags and written ‘watch the Six Nations here’ on the chalkboard outside. On the other hand, he had a dozen paying customers who felt justified in their view that, having shown the first half, there was an unspoken contract between pub and punters that we would see this through to the final whistle together.

Common sense prevailed and we saw the game through to its all-honours-even one-all conclusion, after which the TV was flipped over and those there for the action from the Stade de France had barely missed a thing. Probably. I have to say, I continue to struggle with trying to get too worked up about rugby as a TV spectacle.
I know from pub operators why they like the Six Nations. Rugby viewers are typically more diverse groups of customers who stay longer, spend more and tend to better-natured than a football crowd. On the other hand, when the rugby crowd have faded away for another year, we’ll still be here. Throw us a bone.     


  1. Sorry, you expect televised football to be available all season but begrudge those who follow the Six Nations for five weeks?
    Why do you think so many pubs choose to show the rugby, even if they have satellite subscriptions?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. My problem was more with a pub that wanted to switch over to the rugby having shown the first half of a football match. Had there been a bar full of customers demanding that they do so, I'd have bowed to the democratic will. But there wasn't.