The power of sport to galvanise a nation and bring communities together has been demonstrated once again this year- as has the role of our pubs in providing a focal point for that collective excitement.
As a Football fan for the last 40 years, I can count the number of major Football tournaments that live long in the nation’s memory on the fingers of one hand.
The aspect of this year’s thrilling run that stands apart from previous exciting events is how little expectation this year’s squad took with them into the tournament. We English are great ones for building up false hopes and then seeing them dashed, so it has been a pleasant surprise that the team that so little was expected of have performed so well.
I write this before England’s semi-final so I have no idea of how the story ends, but what is beyond question is that the run through the tournament has captured the public imagination hugely. The game with Sweden attracted the biggest television audience for an England match for 22 years, and the words ‘it’s coming home’ have assumed a meaning all on their own.
But what is also indisputable is that the focal point of much of this collective merriment has centred around Britain’s pubs. Our pubs have been through tough times in recent years for a myriad of reasons. Changing social habits, tax and cost of alcohol, the numerous alternatives on offer, the smoking ban and the drink drive clampdown have all for different reasons reduced the pull of pubs. Those that have survived have had to develop an attractive offer to thrive when there is such competition for our social spend.
The renaissance in Real ales, a lively pub music scene, sports bars, hugely creative pub menus and more attractive spaces are amongst the benefits that successful pub operators have now brought about in order to attracts us behind their doors.
And whilst it is extremely welcome that there is so much innovation in this traditional sector, the value of having a place to be together and watch events like this summer’s world cup with friends cannot be overstated. Nor can the wider community value of Britain’s pubs.
Pubs are also an economic necessity. Over 1 million people are employed in pubs, which pay over £8Billion in tax revenues every year. In Chesterfield we have around 90 different pubs, and videos on social media have been showing Chesterfield’s pubs leading the way in providing scenes of collective ecstasy during this summer’s Football.
It is because of a desire to salute and celebrate Britain’s pubs that I have created the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs. The competition, which will give every MP from across Britain’s 650 constituencies the opportunity to nominate a great pub, was launched in Westminster’s famous Red Lion. Appropriately enough, the competition was launched just minutes before England took the field to play Colombia. Already dozens of MPs have signed up and selecting the ten finalists will be devilishly difficult, but as a pub enthusiast, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to taking up!
If you would like to choose the pub you think I should nominate, email your suggestion with a description of not more than 100 words as to why it is a winner to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s tell all of Britain about Chesterfield’s great pubs.