Calls from pubs and the Liberal Democrats for alcohol licensing laws to be relaxed for Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final have been rejected by ministers.
Pubs can choose when they open on Sundays, but the time from which they can start selling alcohol varies depending on each pub’s individual licence.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said most pubs can start serving alcohol from 11am – which is when the final kicks off – but it is calling for rules to be relaxed so football fans can enjoy a drink from 10am.
Emma McClarkin, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “As England enter their first World Cup final since 1966 we need the government to step in and allow the necessary regulatory easement to allow pubs to serve the public from 10am on final day, so fan and communities can come together and cheer the Lionesses to victory at the best place to watch live sport, the pub.”
“Where there’s a will, there has to be a way,” she added.
Conservative MP Alun Cairns, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, echoed the call, saying: “Early opening and serving would be a fitting tribute to the Lionesses and a welcome boost to the industry. I have raised the issue with the home secretary directly who is looking in to see what is possible.
“We need to do all we can to support the team, whilst at the same time backing our great British pubs.”
Temporary changes to licensing laws in England and Wales have been made for special events in the past, such as the Euro 2020 final and the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
Under the Licensing Act 2003, tweaks to licensing laws have to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – both of which are currently in recess.
The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to recall parliament and “score a last minute winner for our pubs and the Lionesses” – but that call has been rejected.
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “Recognising this momentous occasion, we want to encourage the police and local authorities to work together for maximum flexibility to make sure that the country can enjoy the match and get behind the Lionesses altogether.”
Recalling parliament would involve the taxpayer funding last-minute travel for both MPs and peers to return to Westminster, which would likely be very expensive.
Pubs can still open from 10am, even if they cannot serve booze before kick-off at 11am.
They are able to apply for special licences to serve alcohol earlier than is permitted under their standard licence. However, it is likely too late for most to do so.
Despite widespread public calls, there has never been an extra bank holiday after a sporting achievement – and it is not on the cards this time either.
A government spokesperson told Sky News on Wednesday: “Winning the World Cup would be a massive moment for the country and make no mistake we’ll find the right way to celebrate.
“As [England manager] Sarina Wiegman herself has said, the first thing to do is focus on the final and the whole country will be rooting for the Lionesses this weekend.”
The government resisted calls for an extra bank holiday last summer ahead of the Lionesses’ Euros victory, and there was no support for one ahead of the men’s team’s Euro 2020 final in 2021.
A House of Commons library report from 2010 estimated that a bank holiday costs the UK economy £2.9bn, and with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prioritising economic growth, he is unlikely to be in favour.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer will travel to Sydney for the final, but there are no plans for Mr Sunak to attend, Sky News understands.
Kensington Palace has also confirmed to Sky News the Prince of Wales – who is chair of the Football Association – will not be travelling to watch the final either.