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Rugby Pubs



Why are there so few pubs in English towns and cities willing to show rugby?

Being cast headfirst into the real world for the first time is certainly an eye-opening experience. My example revolves around the final group matches of the Heineken Cup. The last, potentially most exciting, weekend of Europe’s premier club competition before the knockout stages. It is at this point of the tournament than the fate of many of the Northern Hemisphere’s premier sides will be sealed. Dreams forged, season’s ambitions shattered.

Unfortunately, this happened to coincide with what would be widely regarded as one of the English Premiership’s most anticipated round of matches. Liverpool versus Chelsea at Anfield on the Saturday, closely followed by Arsenal against Manchester United the next day.

For rugby followers in England without their own access to Sky Sports on a 24/7 basis, this spells trouble. A mouth-watering platter has been set down before them. 2004 European Champions Wasps travelling to France, only a victory ensuring qualification; injury ravaged Sale going head to head with the exciting Ospreys, a side chasing one of two elusive runners up spots; heavyweights of English rugby, Leicester, looking to storm the previously impenetrable fortress of Thomond Park and snatch group 4 from the men of Munster; the free-running Scarlets looking to round off in style against attack-minded London Irish; and finally, league strugglers Northampton looking to give their supporters something to cheer about in a pool 6 showdown with Biarritz.

To have this feast denied would border on torture. Try finding an establishment not overrun by Burberry clad Gooners, Bluskis, Scousers or Muppets though. It’s a task not lightly undertaken.

The television room in my University hall of residence had been swamped by roundyball (or ‘fagball’, as my associate in my quest for rugby insisted on calling it) enthusiasts, all discussing the finer points of Mourinho’s downfall and how large Peter Crouch’s boots really are. Once the annoyance that I hadn’t come in earlier and irritated them all by refusing to change channels wore off, desperation began to take hold. Striding out with the resolve of finding a pub to spend my afternoon watching rugby in (because surely one of the many close by must be showing something other than the football) I found an ally in a long haired third year (the aforementioned user of the term ‘fagball’) I had spoken to while watching previous matches. In revealing my plan of action to him, I discovered a startling fact. Apparently in all of Reading â€" a growing town housing a top-flight rugby side â€" there was only one pub (count ‘em!) willing to put on the oval game.

Wasps began their Frog bashing in 5 minutes. The pub in question was in the centre of town, at least 30 minutes away. We would have to hop to it.

Arriving a disappointing 35 minutes into the match, thoughts of dwelling on the missed action were quickly swept aside. It was like entering Aladdin’s Cave; a wondrous tardis of rugby paraphernalia and atmosphere. Nothing to look at from the outside, passed by in seconds by swarms of people emerging from Reading’s busy station, upon entry the rugby supporter will feel a wave of calm sweep over them. Tens, maybe even a hundred, rugby shirts of clubs both professional and amateur hang suspended from the rafters. Signed balls and photos appear to hold the weight of the ceiling by themselves. Men (and women) of all ages and shapes (assuming ‘round’ is still considered a shape) are seated facing an enormous television screen mounted into the far wall, or lean at the bar gazing at any one of 3 other sets positioned around the interior. One bearded veteran dozes in the corner, lazily puffing on his pipe filled with who-knows-what. His presence doesn’t intrude on my enjoyment in the slightest, but I will save anti-smoking law rants for another time.

Half time swiftly descends and drinks are purchased, along with snacks to replenish us from our long journey and sustain us as the action draws in our attention. Cider and crisps. Proper pub food. The next 40 minutes comes and goes, Wasps defending for all they are worth to cling on for victory. No one leaves at the final whistle. More drinks are bought. More people enter for the start of the day’s first Anglo-Celtic clash. As a spectacle, the match is somewhat cagey, but absorbed by one and all. The final whistle blows. No one leaves. More drinks are bought. More people arrive and settle down for the showpiece in the Emerald Isle.

A thoroughly good-humoured time is had by one and all. By the closing minutes, even die-hard Tiger haters such as myself must grudgingly admit they have done a good job. At this time I decided I am definitely going to spend another 4 hours in here tomorrow.

Wandering back home in a happy, if slightly inebriated state, I begin to ponder the business acumen of Reading’s pub-owning landlords. Not just those in Berkshire’s largest town in fact, but across the whole country.

How many pubs across the country must have shown the football on their screens? I would take a wild stab at the vast majority. I would also guess that most of them ended up with the football on. Very few of those buildings can possibly have been full. All it would take was one or two bright sparks to change the channel and they would suddenly attract a whole new audience. Those rugby fans sitting at home, depressed at the inadequacy of the canned beer in their hand while watching the match, may suddenly decide to pop down to the local for a swift few pints of entertainment. If they know the option is open to them. Some may see placing the gentleman’s game ahead on the schedule as a risk â€" but it works! I have seen it with my own eyes. Rugby pubs in England’s major towns and cities are the way forward.

Epilogue â€" I returned the next day for my second hit, entering to find groups of London Irish fans huddled around their beer. My decision not to wear my Saints shirt suddenly seemed all the more pertinent. Of course I need not have worried. In two days of intense sporting action, with alcohol flowing from the taps like water, I saw not one bit of trouble or animosity. Fans chatted liberally about the sate of the game in England, Europe and the World, but not once it even threaten to turn into anything more heated than a steak pie and chips. The owner even appeased some football following customers that day by putting their big match on the even bigger screen. Luckily he then showed them who was in charge by turning the sound down. Imagine not being able to hear the commentary from Franklins Gardens on the other monitor!
Top post...you want to try getting the rugby on in Liverpool town centre. Becoming a member of Waterloo or LSH is the only option really if a big footy game is on.

Other than that O'Neills and Barracuda bars are generally more likely to have it on that other pubs.

The Victoria in Woolton is promising that it's going to be flagged up and ready for the 6 nations though.
To be fair where I live some of the pubs actually show rugby, not many but a few do
I applaud your use of the term "Fagball."

There is now one pub in St. Louis that shows rugby. I'm very excited. However it is a fancy pub, which means that it can cost a pretty penny for a few pints.
Excellent post. Surprisingly, there are 3 or 4 Irish pubs in Stockholm which show rugby regularly. I must just be lucky I guess.
I, thankfully, live in one of the rugby capitols of the world.
My neighbour is Mr.Henson himself and so the little village we both live in feel obliged to show any Celtic League games, as do EVERY irish pub in the centre.
And of course, it's law for the pubs to show any rugby international on any given day...they HAVE TO do it.
First thing first its football or for our yankee friends soccer.

but yes finding pubs anywhere that show anything other than the dominant sport is hard.

In Australia in winter you have Aussie Rules or in summer cricket.

Either of which is on (I.E a big match on) and goodbye your chances of watching anything other that the aformentioned.

Unless you go to a pub which specialises or is empty and in a small town like mine it just doesnt happen. :(

I feel your pain guys. :)
I remember trying to watch England vs Italy last year in London.

Allot of pubs, the staff looked at me like I had just molested a child when I said "hi, any chance you could turn it onto BBC1 for the Rugby?"

Thankfully there was a packed pub that was showing the rugby and ignoring all requests to put it onto Sky Sports News for the "footie scores"
Well if I was 18 I'd be able to spin down to Ye Olde Orchard on Monkland street to watch rugby on occasion. They're basically the only guys who really have a chance of showing it.
Well if I was 18 I'd be able to spin down to Ye Olde Orchard on Monkland street to watch rugby on occasion. They're basically the only guys who really have a chance of showing it.

While I was in Montréal I used to go to the L'Barouf on rue St Denis to watch Rugby, VI Nations and Autumn Internationals.
O'Neils always show the Six Nations in Aberdeen because Ireland vs Scotland is the biggest occassion on the Student Calendar here in Aberdeen.

This is because the student population is split perfectly three ways between Scot, Irish and Foreigner so most sports get a good showing up here in Aberdeen. During the Cricket World Cup, if India and Pakistan get to the semis or the finals, the Asian students will probably pack out the bars.
My favourite has to be The Rob Roy in Cork. Spent many a morning/afternoon/night in there with a few of the friendly locals. I was working all over Ireland at the time so I relished every drunken moment.
Irish pubs? I was in one outside Galway city three years ago during the HEC semis - Leinster were playing against ... I forget. Galway is GAA territory, so there's a simmering hatred for rugby outside the city limits.

There were about seven of us watching the match with 15 mins to go - getting to the bar by stepping over kids in their crisp-encrusted first holy communion outfits - when ... the fat f***er behind the beer taps clicked over to ... the kick off for Man Utd v Sheffield Wednesday! A shitty fag-end of an English premiership match. Oiiiii! The greasy ******* and his fagball mates were laughing at us, and we had to negotiate the rest of the real match by appealing to the fact this was an Irish team, with some of our greatest sportsmen, in the semis of an international competition. We got the last few minutes, and Leinster lost. We left straight away, and the hype-victim gobshites thought they'd beaten us.

Ireland - the sow that eats its own farrow. Is there a smilie for BITTER?

I'm in England now, but it's not much better. Bournemouth is a rugby blackhole. Close to the West Country, but lightyears away in attitude.

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