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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Pubs ban St George for Euro 2004
England followers at Euro 2000
Arena is concerned the flag is associated with football violence
A pub chain is banning its managers from flying England flags during next month's Euro 2004 Championships for fear of driving away female drinkers.

Staff have been told the St George flag should not be displayed in any of the Arena chain's 142 UK outlets.

The decision has been made despite the fact that Arena's pubs will be screening all of England's matches.

In a memo sent to managers, the chain's company executive said the flag was an "unwelcome signal to females".

'Male-dominated atmosphere'

The Birmingham-based firm is concerned that bunting and other patriotic paraphernalia will put off occasional customers and those with no interest in football.

Arena company executive Jeremy Skingley sent a memo to managers expressing the fear that pubs in the chain could develop a "male-dominated, highly charged, terrace-style football atmosphere" during the tournament.

If you are a group of girlfriends going out for a drink you might not necessarily want to go to a pub that is plastered with flags
Jeremy Probert
Company spokesman

He wrote: "To this effect, it is strict company policy that no St George's flags should be displayed during Euro 2004.

"Unfortunately, the St George's flag has negative connotations of football violence."

Jeremy Probert, director of corporate affairs for Arena's parent company, Mitchells & Butlers, admitted the memo was "overzealous".

He stressed the firm was backing England and added that the managers of its hundreds of outlets would be encouraged to fly a St George's cross on the roofs of buildings.

'Odd decision'

Mr Probert said: "We are proud of our heritage and St George, but if you are a family looking to have lunch or a group of girlfriends going out for a drink, you might not necessarily want to go to a pub that is plastered with flags."

Malcolm Clarke from the Football Supporters' Federation told BBC News Online: "It seems like an odd decision.

"No doubt supporters will make a commercial decision. There's going to be no shortage of venues.

"I would recommend that people who want to display paraphernalia should take their business elsewhere."

The tournament kicks off in Portugal on 12 June.

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