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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Landlord wins World Cup drink bid
Martin Gough (left) and chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, Rob Hayward
Mr Gough argued the pub was at the heart of football
A pub landlord who wants to open early for World Cup matches has won his case at the High Court.

Martin Gough wants to serve alcohol to his regulars at The White Hart in Bristol from 0700 BST on match days and his success could open the floodgates to applications from 37,000 pubs nationwide which show live sport.

The eight-hour time difference between the UK and Japan and South Korea means some matches will kick-off at 0730 BST.

Our customers want to celebrate the football in the normal way - in the pub with a pint in your hand

Pub landlord Martin Gough

Mr Gough's initial licence application was turned down on the basis of a 1978 precedent.

But his lawyers successfully argued that "times have changed".

Mr Gough said: "It is what the British public wanted.

"Our customers want to celebrate the football in the normal way - in the pub with a pint in your hand."

Licensing laws in England and Wales are governed by local magistrates.

1978 precedent

They have the power to extend pub opening hours on the basis of what the British Beer and Pub Association called "archaic" rules for "special occasions".

These include bank holidays, anniversaries, the Millennium and even Saints' Days.

Televised football had not been deemed a "special occasion" and therefore last February, like others all over the country, magistrates in Bristol turned down Mr Gough's application.

They made their decision based on the precedent set during the 1978 World Cup which judged overseas sporting events were not "participatory" and therefore did not fall into the "special" category.

Martin Gough outside his Bristol pub, The White Hart
Gough: supporters want to watch football with a pint

John Saunders QC, appearing for Mr Gough, told the High Court world cup matches were now truly special occasions in which customers were participating in a celebratory event.

He said that in the 1970s, fans in pubs watched football matches on small television screens at the end of the bar.

In contrast the White Hart had two 2.5-metre screens and one 30-inch television.

The judges agreed, Lord Woolf saying: "If one were to ask anyone today whether the World Cup was a national special event I apprehend that the reaction would be immediate that it was such an event."


The action was backed by Scottish and Newcastle and the beer and pub association.

The association's chief executive Rob Hayward said: "This is fantastic news for football fans up and down the country who want to watch the World Cup in their favourite place for watching football - the pub."

The ruling was not welcomed by everyone amid concerns that the extended pub hours would lead to anti-social behaviour.

Rev David Deeks, of the Methodist Church, said the move would disrupt family life and lead to people going to work drunk.

And he told BBC News: "Do people want their local pub open with the inevitable disruption this causes?"

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said it would be monitoring how many extended licenses were issued.

"Some thought must be given to the effect it's going to have on people if they are going into work and the effect on local communities," said Lee Lixenberg.

Publicans now have six weeks to apply for licence extensions.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"The case will have implications for sports fans"
Pub landlord, Martin Gough
"It's a marvellous decision"

Click here to go to Bristol
See also:

06 Mar 02 | England
'Beckham and eggs' back on menu
14 Feb 02 | England
'Beckham and eggs' off the menu
02 Nov 01 | England
Pubs to open early for World Cup
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