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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 18:26 GMT
'Beckham and eggs' back on menu
David Beckham
Pubs can open for breakfast for the World Cup
Pubs in Northamptonshire have won the right to open for breakfast to show England's opening World Cup game against Sweden.

The decision by magistrates contradicts a ban on "Beckham and Eggs" openings in Bristol and Oxfordshire imposed in February - one of which is the subject of a High Court appeal.

Legal experts now want the government to clarify the position on what should be termed an event of national interest.

Seven pubs in Northampton and one in Towcester will be able to open at 1030 GMT on Sunday 2 June and again at 0730 GMT on 12 June to show England's games against Sweden and Nigeria.

Big screen TV
Big screen football in pubs is no longer a novelty

Police say they are happy with the decision and offered no objections when two breweries applied to Northampton magistrates to open early.

The Barratt Snooker Club, Sir Pickering Phipps, The Woodhouse, Thomas Becket, Punch and Judy, Lord Byron and The Sun pubs will be opening their doors early.

But a spokeswoman for the Magistrates Association said the decision goes against guidelines issued earlier this year by the Justices' Clerks' Society over what is deemed to be an event in which the public can take part.

She said: "It is very unfortunate. We would welcome a consistent approach to de-regulation similar to that given to events for the Queen's Jubilee."

Chris Wright, finance and commercial director for the McManus Pub Company, which owns seven of the pubs, said attitudes to public houses had changed over the past 20 years.

We would have preferred magistrates to wait for the High Court to decide on the outstanding appeal

Sid Brighton, chief executive of the Justices' Clerks' Society

He said: "They are now a integral part of the community and a place where people not only enjoy but actively take part in important national events such as the World Cup."

Sid Brighton, chief executive of the Justices' Clerks' Society, said: "We would have preferred magistrates to wait for the High Court to decide on the outstanding appeal.

"We stand by our advice that extensions to opening hours should not be granted to show early morning football matches in pubs, but we can understand their decision in the light of the fact that TV sport shown in pubs is no longer a novelty.

Special occasion

"We hope magistrates in other parts of the country will stand by our advice as we still consider it to be based on good case law."

The decision by magistrates in Banbury, Oxfordshire to refuse the Buck and Bell a licence followed a precedent set in 1978 in what was known as the Watchorn case.

In the Watchorn case, it was decided an event must satisfy three requirements before a court would consider allowing an extension of opening hours.

The event must be a special occasion, have some national or local importance and those who benefit from the extension would have to be participating in the event.

While the magistrates accepted the first two requirements, they refused the application on the grounds the drinkers were not participating in the event.

The Justice's Clerks Society's Sid Brighton
"Each application is examined on its own merits"
British Beer and Pubs Association's Rob Hayward
"The law is inconsistent"

Click here to go to Oxford
See also:

14 Feb 02 | England
'Beckham and eggs' off the menu
03 May 01 | UK Politics
Minister calls time on drinking laws
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