After a fairly disastrous Champions League campaign for the English clubs last season, things are starting to look up — and the same could be said for pubs too.

When BT Sport acquired the rights to the entire Champions League and Europa League competitions, some licensees would have initially worried about the impact another bill could have on their business.

The plus side has been that if people want to watch football midweek they are more inclined to go to the pub because it is not widely available on terrestrial TV.

This has been the experience of Keith Nicholas, who has been running the John Baird in North London's Muswell Hill for the last 10 years.

He explains: "The games not being on ITV has been good for the pub. We are the only pub in the area to have BT Sport and it has been much busier this year. We probably have double the amount in on Champions League nights compared with last season."

And he adds that the competition is appealing to a broad group and not just the typical younger men usually associated with football.

"We have followers of all the teams in Europe, Man United, Liverpool and City – not just the London teams," he says.

"It's not just the young lads coming in but quite a wide demographic of men and women. They drink and they have a bite to eat as well."

Keith has tried to capitalise on the opportunity to grow trade at traditionally quieter sessions in the week by introducing a quiz on Thursdays — when Europa League games are played — and upping his promotion on social media.

 

Beer brand bargains

All this would be music, probably the Champions League theme, to the ears of BT Sport's director of commercial customers, Bruce Cuthbert.

He says: "European football is the best asset for mid-week trade and with BT Sport being the only place to watch UEFA Champions League and Europa League, it's a great-value product for licensees to use high-profile matches to increase footfall."

Earlier this season Heineken, which sponsors The Champions League and, with Amstel, the Europa League, signed a deal with BT Sport to give pub stockists discounts of between 30 and 50 per cent on BT Sport. In a similar way Sky offers discounts via a link-up with Molson Coors.

Andrew Turner (pictured below right with BT Sport's Bruce Cuthbert),  Heineken's category and trade marketing director for the on-trade, says: "The first thought some licensees may have had when BT announced it had all of the rights was about an additional bill coming in, but it is a great opportunity to give people an excuse to say: 'I want to get to the pub to watch some great European football'.

 

"It can be a real opportunity for the trade to drive incremental midweek business.

"We are helping by minimising that additional cost coming into the business and by maximising the opportunity to drive people in for midweek football. If you get it right it more than pays for itself."

For Glynn Hopkin, licensee at freehouse The Bell in the Cotswolds village of Avening, the European football is a "nice to have" while not being at the centre of the pub's offer.

He has Sky and BT Sport and says both help increase dwell time.

"This is very much a local pub and the ambience is the most important thing. People come in for a drink and something to eat.

"The football helps people stick around for a bit longer. If they come in for a pint they might just wait until the game has finished before they go home."

As the tournaments get to the knock-out stages, pubs will be hoping for plenty of extra time.

 

 

When's the game on?

The knockout phase of The Champions League returns next month with fixtures on February 16, 17, 23 and 24

Europa League action is back on February 18 and 25 when the last 32 battle it out.

And it is not just BT Sport that can tempt customers out of home midweek for football. Sky's Monday night live football and in-depth analysis can start the week off well and there are plans for more live top-flight games on Fridays next season. See fixtures here.

The Capital One Cup semi-finals are also on Sky this month, with the second legs taking place on January 26 and 27.

 

 

Midweek football by numbers

According to Carlsberg, sponsor of the Euros and the official beer of the Premier League, midweek football presents a huge opportunity for pubs.

Research in its recent Consumer Insights report revealed that 44 per cent of people do not have a TV sports package, making the pub the perfect place to catch the midweek action.

Other stats also reveal where pubs could up their own game to attract more fans through the doors:

75% said if there was no queuing at the bar, they would be more encouraged to watch the game at the pub

65% arrive up to 30 minutes before the match and leave at the full-time whistle – meaning pubs need to do more to attract fans earlier and retain them for longer

35% of people combine the match with another occasion, presenting pubs with a big opportunity

David Scott, director of brands and insight at Carlsberg UK, says: "The barriers for pubs to break down can often be quite simple. Pubs should manage these events carefully, ensuring queues at the bar are not too long, all spare space is utilised with plenty of seating, and perhaps even consider table service or the option to pre-book a table.

"Once people have arrived to watch a game, licensees have a captive audience. This is a good time to promote special offers on food or drinks."