Pubs across England are hoping a minister’s letter to councils across England means venues can open early for the World Cup final on Sunday.
An average of 4.6 million people tuned in on a working day to watch the Lionesses progress to their first ever World Cup final with the win being the most-watched game of the tournament so far.
England’s women will play Spain at 11am on Sunday in their first World Cup final after beating hosts Australia on Wednesday.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has written to councils across England to do everything they can to help venues seeking to extend their hours for the game.
In the Telegraph, Tory MP Damian Green, a member of the culture select committee said: “We wouldn’t think twice about doing it if the men’s team were playing a World Cup final so let’s do it on Sunday.”
⚽️Pubs will roar for the @Lionesses on Sunday in England's first World Cup final in 60 years
❌But regulation means beer can't be served until 11am currently. We're calling on Government to allow serving at 10
— British Beer & Pub Association (@beerandpub) August 17, 2023
But councils are unable to grant extensions to pubs that failed to apply by August 11 – when England had not even won their quarter-final tie.
Pub bosses have warned that licensing rules mean some venues will be unable to serve pints or open early for excited fans on the day.
Current regulations mean the sale of alcohol is widely prohibited before 10am on Sunday, but venues such as pubs also have specific hours they can stay open and serve alcohol depending on individual licences.
A blanket change to licensing hours across England would require the approval of Parliament, which is not currently sitting as it is the summer recess – and demands for an emergency recall to Westminster have been dismissed.
Instead, the Government is urging local councils and police chiefs to do what they can to approve extensions.
Levelling Up Secretary Mr Gove said: “The whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966.
“I’ve asked councils to do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion.”
Individual pubs can apply for a temporary event notice (TEN) to vary their hours, but that requires five working days to process.
In cases where an application is being rapidly considered to allow a short extension to licensing hours, the Government is encouraging local authorities to continue to do everything they can to complete the process in time, working closely with local police forces.
The Home Office has written to police chiefs encouraging them to work with councils to ensure as many venues as possible can open.
Most pubs are likely to be unable to serve alcohol until 11am, with some being restricted until midday, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
Town halls have no legal way to grant extensions for pubs which had not submitted TEN applications in time.
A Local Government Association spokeswoman said: “Councils up and down the country are flying flags, lighting up buildings and hosting free screenings of the game on Sunday to mark this historic and exciting occasion.
“They will be working with partners and local vendors to ensure supporters can enjoy the match safely and get behind our Lionesses.”
Licensing rules have previously been relaxed by the Home Office for occasions of “exceptional international, national or local significance”.
The Liberal Democrats called for Rishi Sunak to recall Parliament to pass the necessary legislation.
Chris Jowsey, chief executive officer of Admiral Taverns, which runs more than 1,600 pubs, said: “We urge the Prime Minister to allow pubs to open at 10am on Sunday to support our Lionesses and bring communities together to cheer on the team.
“It has been inspiring to watch not only their outstanding achievements on the pitch, but the way it has brought the nation together off the pitch.”
It comes as a senior bishop from the Church of England has said it is “fine” for churches to move morning services to accommodate the Lionesses’ first World Cup final.
The Right Reverend Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby and the Church of England’s lead bishop for sport, said people should choose the service that is “right for them”.
Meanwhile, Queen Letizia of Spain is set to travel to Australia for the World Cup final, while UK royals are due to remain at home.
The Spanish royal will travel with her 16-year-old daughter Ifanta Sofia to show the country’s “commitment” to national football.
On Wednesday Kensington Palace confirmed the Prince of Wales, who is also president of the Football Association (FA), would not be travelling to Australia for the final.