12 April 2002

World Cup exception 'unlikely' to open the way to longer pub opening hours

The High Court today ruled on pubs being allowed to apply for special opening hours extensions during the World Cup in June. Following the ruling, the Methodist Church's Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs, Ms Rachel Lampard, made the following comments:

"This is a one-off situation. It is unlikely that opening at 7am for World Cup matches would open the floodgates for future widespread extensions - there is unlikely to be the demand from other sporting events to make it viable for pubs.

"Even though this test case was successful, licence applications will still have to go before local licensing magistrates. They will be required to be sensitive to the needs of local people, particularly where pubs are situated in residential areas rather than city centres.

"Not everyone will want to watch football in a pub, and this will be particularly true of families with children. As the matches are being shown on ITV or BBC, many people will choose to watch them over breakfast at home. There is even an example of a vicar who is planning to show matches at his church. Such imaginative approaches are to be encouraged.

"Wherever people watch breakfast-time World Cup matches on a weekday they should be strongly discouraged from drinking and then going into work. Employees have a responsibility to their firm, their colleagues and the general public to be in a fit state to carry out their job."

Matches for the 2002 World Cup will be shown in Britain between 7.30am and 12.30pm because of the time difference with Japan and Korea.

Some pubs have applied for licence extensions to enable them to open at 7am and serve alcohol to customers watching World Cup matches. A handful of extensions have been granted, but most were previously refused due to a High Court ruling in 1978. This said that pubs could only open early if clients were participating in a special event. Subsequent judgements had ruled that watching football matches did not count as participation in a special event.

Today's High Court ruling on a test case brought by the pub chain Scottish and Newcastle Retail over-turns the 1978 ruling.

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