Get Your Pub Ready for the 2018 World Cup!

screening sports, sports pub, football, run a pub
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 26/03/2018 - 10:00

Love it or hate it, the FIFA World Cup 2018 takes place this June and July.  It provides a massive opportunity for pub operators to attract extra trade from fans – or to create football free zones designed to appeal to all those who have no interest in the game. Whichever you opt for, preparations have to start early.

That’s why we’ve prepared this useful guide now so you have plenty of time to make the most of the event.

Screening Live Sport In Your Pub

Pubs have always been a natural home for watching live sport on big screen TV’s. Fans enjoy relaxing with a drink or meal while watching the match with their mates, especially if watching from home doesn’t provide the right atmosphere!  Sharing the banter, and discussing the state of play is very much a community event.

Statistics from previous major tournaments show that around 14.8m people head to the pub to watch a football game and they expect to stay for at least three hours each time. This offers plenty of sales opportunities for canny operators who have had the foresight to plan well in advance. It is potentially a very big market but as Damien O’Kane of The Railway Tavern, East Grinstead points out – preparation is vital.

“Sport has always been a big contribution to our business and I make sure that we keep an eye on what matches are showing.  With both Sky and BT Sports, it’s a big cost so we have to ensure as much return as we can from sport.  I always check well in advance what matches are showing and make sure my staff know too.  When a customer asks if you are broadcasting a match, the answer of ‘maybe’ isn’t good enough – they won’t show up for maybe. Plan in advance and you can give them a definite answer – which many pubs won’t do. So we win their business.”

World Cup 2018 - Preparation

If you’re planning to attract football fans, make sure you have suitable licenses. It is not just a simple TV licence that you need, but also the specific rights to show the games in public and a suitable package to show sports from your TV provider. Check out different providers such as Sky and BT TV as costs can vary.  

Bear in mind that if you do not have a TV installed at the moment, investing in a high quality TV screen suitable for public viewing can prove profitable. It will enable you to screen other sports events such as rugby, tennis or cricket held throughout the year. It becomes a long-term investment.

Confirm well in advance the times of the matches, and the exact channels that are involved.  As the World Cup is being held in Russia, the match locations involved are in different time zones so start times can vary considerably from 11 am to 7pm.  Screenings generally start around half an hour before the match itself, and another half an hour afterwards as pundits discuss the match, and show replays of the game. 

Think ahead as to which games you will focus on.  With 64 matches due to be played, it is unlikely that British fans will be interested in every single one.  Identify the key matches, particularly the semi final and final, and any that are held at weekends or evenings when people are most likely to go out.

Word of warning!

England is the only home nation taking part.  It is important when making your preparations to balance the risk that England may leave the tournament early. If that happens, then some fans will lose interest.  Also in light of the UK’s current diplomatic relationship with Russia there is a small chance that England won’t travel at all. Make sure you keep abreast of any news developments so you can make plans accordingly.

That said British football fans are not only interested in watching their own team. The opportunity to watch world class football in the pub is still something many customers want.

Choosing The Location For Your TV Screen

Most sports fans regard the size of the screen as being extremely important when choosing which pub to frequent for a match.  Installing directional speakers so that sound levels can be managed ensures that those who want to listen to the game can, while those with less interest are not disturbed.

Food & Drink

With fans likely to be in the pub for several hours, it is a perfect opportunity to encourage them to eat and drink on the premises.  A key priority has to be ensuring that you have enough beer and other drinks!  Running out of supplies will not be popular.  Always place orders for additional stock well in advance so that you are fully prepared.

Consider allowing groups to reserve a table in advance, as long as they order food as well.  Provide a special menu or have special promotions on offer to encourage customers to relax with a meal during the event.


Make sure you have enough staff to cope with the extra demand, especially at half time, before and after the match when there is often a surge to the bar with everyone wanting fresh drinks.  Investigate ways to avoid queuing such as taking orders from tables, or providing contactless payments.

Promote your pub as a match venue

Customers need to know what you are doing well before each match.  Be proactive with your marketing.  Have lots of posters and information available beforehand, use display boards outside your pub to attract passers-by. Put up details on social media.  Make sure everyone knows when the next match is being shown, even before one match is finished. Have posters up and flyers available as soon as a match is over, promoting your next event. Also make special discounts or early bird offers available for pre-booked groups.

Equally important is to take advantage of any industry offers, incentives and apps being promoted such as the Budweiser MatchPint App designed to drive customers into your pub. Speak to your BDM to find out what promotions are being run through your PubCo or brewery.

Football Free Zones

Not everyone is a football fan!  Some pubs can do extremely well by advertising themselves as a ‘football free zone’ or simply designating certain areas or rooms as ‘football free!’ Being able to eat and drink in peace without having to listen to the resident football pundits, or having the match on in the background, can encourage many people to visit the pub for a relaxing few hours. 

Consider whether to run promotional offers to attract customers who don’t want to watch football. Describing your pub as a football free zone could well bring in lots of new customers, who may return time and time again in the future.

Whether you plan to screen the World Cup this year, or go for the football free option, speak to your Business Development Manager for more help and advice.

If you’re thinking of taking on another site, or your current tenancy is coming to an end, and you would like to explore running a pub with Greene King, get in touch with our team. You can search for pubs using the search tool at the top of this page, or call us directly.