The Local Government Association has criticised the Government’s decision to approve an England-wide relaxation of licensing hours for England matches with late kick off times at this year’s 2014 World Cup.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced the relaxation following the publication of the Government’s response to consultation.
The response said: “The Government believes that England playing in the World Cup is an occasion of exceptional national significance. Many people will wish to enjoy watching the matches in pubs and bars and experience the atmosphere of the occasion with fellow football fans, as demonstrated by the enthusiasm of the majority of those who responded to the consultation.”
The relaxation will apply during England matches in the World Cup with a scheduled kick off time of 8 pm or later, and will be for the sale of alcohol and late night refreshment for consumption on the premises.
The relaxation will last four hours, to a latest time of 1 am. “This length of time covers any extra time and penalties, and will also mean that customers are likely to leave premises gradually after the match, minimising any nuisance to the public,” the response said.
“The Government believes that 1 am is an acceptable cut off time and premises wishing to extend their hours beyond this could do so using a TEN [temporary event notice].”
The proposed relaxation found strong backing from members of the public and those representing licensed trade or trade organisations.
However, only 21% of police respondents and 35% of licensing authority or environmental health respondents were in favour.
Concerns in particular were expressed about the increase in violence, domestic violence and anti-social behaviour associated with drinking and televised football matches and the link between licensed premises and football-related incidents during the 2010 World Cup, with 519 of 599 recorded incidents taking place in licensed premises.
Cllr Tony Page, the LGA’s licensing spokesman, said: “A World Cup summer is always an exciting time and councils understand that watching matches in a local pub is a key part of the whole experience. Councils also support moves that bring communities together and also help the local economy.
“However, licensing decisions should be taken locally. While councils will always look to grant extensions to well-run and responsible businesses, they need to be able to target their limited resources most effectively and protect residents living close to popular venues from unnecessary disruption.”
Cllr Page added: “A blanket national relaxation means councils will not be able to plan ahead and minimise any disruption through sensible licensing restrictions but will instead have to react to issues as best they can.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "It's really great news, which will put pubs at the heart of a great national event. I am particularly pleased that the Government has really listened, and made sure that common sense prevailed, granting the full four hours after kick off for England games, as we he had asked."