LONDON — After 67 years of waiting, England wants to celebrate its first World Cup final with a traditional pint of ale. But archaic licensing laws have other ideas.
Decades on from the 1966 World Cup final — the last, and only, time either the England men or women’s football team made the final — England’s Lionesses are set to face Spain in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.
But there’s one problem: the game, hosted by Australia, kicks off at 11 a.m. U.K. time — before many of England’s public houses are allowed to serve booze.
Politicians, lobbying groups and fans have united behind calls for leniency so that Sunday’s game can be enjoyed — or endured — with a morning pint.
Under England’s strict licensing laws, pubs have specific hours they are allowed to serve alcohol from. These vary depending on the specific license granted by local councils. Most are unlikely to be able to sell alcohol until after the game kicks off.
However, such rules can be temporarily relaxed nationwide for special occasions. The British Beer and Pub Association, an industry group, wants ministers to apply a temporary blanket tweak across the country, allowing pubs to serve alcohol from 10 a.m. just for the day.
But this change would require approval from parliament — currently in recess.
Downing Street has already ruled out recalling MPs from their summer holidays, and the government’s instead relying on its powers of persuasion. Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove has written to councils urging them to “do everything they can” to help pubs open earlier.
For some, that isn’t far enough. The Liberal Democrats — known for frequent demands to cancel the Commons recess — said No. 10 should bring parliament back immediately to make the change.
“This is an open goal for the government,” Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said. “MPs should get down to Westminster tomorrow and score a last minute winner for our pubs and the Lionesses.”