Wimbledon pubs get set for 2011 Rugby World Cup


Reporter Nicolas Atkin looks at how this year’s early morning match starts will affect the rugby fans’ drinking culture.


By Nicolas Atkin

Any taste of alcohol at 10am is usually only that on your breath from the night before.

But rugby fans looking to follow their nation at the 2011 Rugby World Cup with a beer in hand may have to buck the trend.

The event, being hosted by New Zealand, is usually an excuse to cheer your team on at the pub with plenty of pints and other fans.

However, as when Australia hosted the tournament in 2003, the time-difference between Oceania and England means that viewers face an early rise to watch their team.

With kickoffs ranging between 03:30 and 09:30, fans might struggle to find a bar that is open, let alone with a license to serve alcohol.

Watching at home with a cup of tea or a can of red bull, depending on the kickoff time, might be the more realistic and tempting option.

But pubs all over Wimbledon are opening at 09:30 with special licenses for the World Cup to sell alcohol from 10:00.

 Australian bar Billabong, on The Broadway, are expecting to attract the large local contingent of South Africans and Australians, despite the early starts.

Scott Ackland, assistant manager at Billabong, said: “There’s a large interest in South African and Australian rugby, it’s one of their major sports.

“It’s definitely gonna get very busy in here, as we’re open for most of the Australia and South Africa games.”

Mr Ackland is hoping that both teams, as well as England, go far in the tournament, but not just for the benefit of the bars’ bank balances.

He said: “As the games get more important further in, there’ll be more people coming down to get on the beers and enjoy it in a pub atmosphere, with everyone in their jerseys.

“There’ll be more money for the community, which is good.”

It is conceivable that the combination of early drinking and passionate fans might lead to trouble, but Mr Ackland added: “I don’t think it’s going to be rowdy at all.

“Obviously, most of the games are on at nine in the morning, so everyone won’t have had a gutful before they get here.”

A few doors down, O’Neill’s are similarly unconcerned. Barman Ian Pickles said: “We’re not expecting any problems at all.

In Wimbledon Village, Claire Ronan, assistant manager at The Dog and Fox, anticipates no disturbances either, saying: “Being up in the village you don’t tend to see too many rowdy ones.

“It’s not like the football. The locals round here don’t like to see shouting. But the rugby’s OK, they like that.”

Wimbledon resident Thom Ladd agreed, saying: “Rugby’s different to football. They enjoy a drink, the rugby chaps, but they handle it better.”

Several pubs are advertising cooked breakfasts as an alternative to beer, The Alexandra on Wimbledon Hill Road, offering sausage and bacon rolls.

The Rose and Crown in the Village is even only serving alcohol on the condition that customers buy breakfast.

But local resident Rich Hirst thinks fans will prioritise beer over butties, saying: “If the pubs are serving, people will be drinking.”

Tom Young, of Wimbledon, believes that whether people are drinking or not, the World Cup will be a positive experience. He said: “It brings everyone together.”

Whatever their nationality, fans will be enjoying rugby in the time-honoured tradition – at the pub with a pint – perhaps some a little more than others.

Mr Young suggested that South Africans and Australians might be taking full advantage of the early licenses, but quipped: “The English are a bit more reserved!”

He was certainly right when it came to England’s performance against Argentina in their opening fixture on Saturday.

Related Articles