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

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

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

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

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

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

Matches for the 2002 World Cup will be shown in Britain between7.30am and 12.30pm because of the time difference with Japan andKorea.

Some pubs have applied for licence extensions to enablethem to open at 7am and serve alcohol to customers watching WorldCup matches. A handful of extensions have been granted, but mostwere previously refused due to a High Court ruling in 1978. Thissaid that pubs could only open early if clients were participatingin a special event. Subsequent judgements had ruled that watchingfootball matches did not count as participation in a specialevent.

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