UK backs pubs to open earlier for England’s World Cup final

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is encouraging local councils to allow pubs to open earlier so fans can have a pint before they watch England play Spain in the Women’s World Cup final in Australia, a government minister said on Thursday.

The game on Sunday will be the first time since England’s men beat West Germany in 1966 that a senior England team has reached the World Cup final.

Pubs can generally begin serving alcohol from 1100 local time – when the game kicks off – but many will require special permission from local councils to start even earlier.

The British Beer and Pub Association, which represents over 20,000 pubs, had called for permission for pubs to serve beer from 1000 on Sunday.

“The whole nation is ready to get behind the Lionesses this Sunday in what is England’s biggest game since 1966,” Michael Gove, Britain’s minister for levelling up, housing and communities, said.

“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.”

The event is set to boost the industry, with trade body UK Hospitality estimating an additional 41 million pounds ($52 million) in sales.

“Demand from fans has been exceptional, with bookings filling rapidly, and there’s no doubt the day will be a huge boost for the sector,” UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said.

Millions of fans are expected to tune into the game on television. The Lionesses’ semi-final victory over Australia had a peak audience of 7.3 million, the BBC said.

($1 = 0.7849 pounds)

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, editing by Ed Osmond)