Women’s World Cup final: Police should ‘turn blind eye’ to pubs opening early for England match

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Police should “turn a blind eye” to any pubs opening early for the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, a Tory MP has urged.

Sir Michael Fabricant, the former vice-chair of the Conservative party, has written to Staffordshire Police Chief Constable Chris Noble and Ben Adams, police and fire commissioner for Staffordshire, in his Litchfield constituency, to make the request to ensure pubs can sell alcohol before 10am ahead of the historic England v Spain clash.

He wrote: “I think it would be a marvellous gesture if pubs could be allowed to open early and, although this would be contrary to the law, the police might turn a blind eye on this one occasion only.”

“I think now is the time for the police to show discretion to allow pubs and other venues to open early allowing people to cheer on our wonderful Lionesses in the company of others. I hope other police forces might show similar flexibility too – on this particular Sunday,” he added.

His plea comes after cabinet minister Michael Gove wrote to councils across England asking them to do everything they can to help venues seeking to extend their hours for the game.

In the Telegraph, Tory MP Damian Green, a member of the culture select committee said: “We wouldn’t think twice about doing it if the men’s team were playing a World Cup final so let’s do it on Sunday.”

However, councils are unable to grant extensions to pubs that failed to apply by 11 August – when England had not even won their quarter-finals.

Pub bosses have warned that licensing rules mean some venues will be unable to serve pints or open early for fans on Sunday.

Current regulations mean the sale of alcohol is widely prohibited before 10am on Sunday, but venues such as pubs also have specific hours they can stay open and serve alcohol depending on individual licences.

A blanket change to licensing hours across England would require the approval of parliament, which is not currently sitting as it is the summer recess – and demands for an emergency recall to Westminster have been dismissed.

Instead, the government is urging local councils and police chiefs to do what they can to approve extensions.

Levelling Up secretary Mr Gove said: “The whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966.

“I’ve asked councils to do everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday, so people can come together and enjoy a drink before kick-off for this special occasion.”

Individual pubs can apply for a temporary event notice (TEN) to vary their hours, but that requires five working days to process.

In cases where an application is being rapidly considered to allow a short extension to licensing hours, the Government is encouraging local authorities to continue to do everything they can to complete the process in time, working closely with local police forces.

The Home Office has written to police chiefs encouraging them to work with councils to ensure as many venues as possible can open.

Most pubs are likely to be unable to serve alcohol until 11am, with some being restricted until midday, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

Town halls have no legal way to grant extensions for pubs which had not submitted TEN applications in time.

A Local government association spokesperson said: “Councils up and down the country are flying flags, lighting up buildings and hosting free screenings of the game on Sunday to mark this historic and exciting occasion.

“They will be working with partners and local vendors to ensure supporters can enjoy the match safely and get behind our Lionesses.”

Licensing rules have previously been relaxed by the Home Office for occasions of “exceptional international, national or local significance”.

The Liberal Democrats earlier called for prime minister Rishi Sunak to recall parliament to pass the necessary legislation.

Chris Jowsey, the chief executive officer of Admiral Taverns, which runs more than 1,600 pubs, said: “We urge the prime minister to allow pubs to open at 10am on Sunday to support our Lionesses and bring communities together to cheer on the team.

“It has been inspiring to watch not only their outstanding achievements on the pitch, but the way it has brought the nation together off the pitch.”

It comes as a senior bishop from the Church of England has said it is “fine” for churches to move morning services to accommodate the Lionesses’ first World Cup final.

An average of 4.6 million people tuned in on a working day to watch the Lionesses progress to their first-ever World Cup final with the win being the most-watched game of the tournament so far.

England’s women will play Spain at 11am on Sunday in their first World Cup final after beating hosts Australia on Wednesday.

Additional reporting from PA news agency

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