What Nottingham needed, Al Needham decided, was a different kind of World Cup venue, without the usual nonsense and with better food and music. Did Nottingham agree?
Back in 2004, I realised that I’d outgrown standing in an Australian theme pub watching England, surrounded by meatheads bellowing “No Surrender to the IRA” (even though three months earlier you’d seen the very same people in town on St Patrick’s Day in those stupid Guinness hats). I vowed that I’d have a completely idiot-free 2006 World Cup. I’d get my own pub sorted out, get my mates in there and watch England without worrying about random violence.
Thanks to my involvement with a local alternative newspaper called LeftLion, getting a venue wouldn’t be a problem. We hit upon turning every England game into an all-dayer – first a pub quiz, then the match, then a load of DJs and bands. The landlord offered us a cut of the bar take. We asked for ten per cent. He offered us seven. We took it and scurried off to put an advert in the next mag that was shot through with Notts vernacular. “Follow England All The Way To Their Inevitable Quarter Final Knockout With Leftlion – Decent View Of The Telleh – Quality Ale – Proper Snap – No Chattiness, Knuckle-Draggers Or Mouth-Breathers.”
The first problem arose at the Paraguay game. We’d double-booked with an alternative music all-dayer, which they let us share with them without the bar percentage. I hadn’t banked on sharing my new and improved World Cup experience with polite middle-class skate-punks, youths with chip-pan haircuts and toddlers with England face-paint, but the venue was full, people were leaping at the bar like salmon and the landlord decided to jack up the cut to ten per cent.
The second, third, fourth, and fifth problems arose during the Trinidad & Tobago game. The venue was rammed for the match, but there was no food on – the chef had kicked off at the landlord and had been sacked. (At half-time, we ran to the nearest corner shop and bought 75 packets of crisps.) Then, after the game, we had to clear out a hundred or so chairs in order to get the bands on and we hadn’t sorted a microphone out. By the time the first act came on – a local rapper busting out ten-minute freestyles about how ace he was and how much of a shitbag Tony Blair is – the old blokes who compromised the majority of the clientele puffed their cheeks out in disdain and went down the road. By the time the local reggae sound system was up, there were eight people in the pub. Eight. And two of them were bar staff.
I realised both very quickly and far too late that you just don’t mess with people’s viewing habits when the World Cup is on. By the time Sweden rolled around, it was evident that people didn’t care about anything but the match. We could have resurrected John and George and put them together with Paul and Ringo, and people still would have cleared out, moaning about how shite England were along the way. And we were competing with everyone. Rock City, the local music barn, was showing England games. So were four churches. And in a place that lives and could quite possibly die on its night-time economy, it seemed that the entire city was smothered by World Cup banners.
After the Ecuador match, which developed into a glorified works outing for a company that only employs four people, the game was up – the landlord wanted to pull the plug on the idea so he could actually make some money on the World Cup. As he wrote us a cheque, I felt an overwhelming wave of relief – I could finally enjoy watching an England game (well, you know what I mean). Up until then I was constantly keeping an eye on the bar instead of the screen. I was exerting a claw-like grip on the microphone, shilling T-shirts and trying to work out what time the next game was on. I had to fight through a mass of already pissed-off people after the Sweden equaliser so I could change the CD from “Rayyy! England Win!” (which had Three Lions on it – can’t stand the song, but people expect it, don’t they?) to “Boo! England Are Shite!” (which started with Inglan Is A Bitch by Linton Kwesi Johnson). However much I berated the meat-heads I sought to avoid, I could have really done with a dozen of them at our events – they just drink themselves into a stupor till chucking-out time.
However, I’m still glad I had a go. I got to watch Paraguay v Sweden on a screen the size of God’s face while barking requests at my own personal sound system. I’m probably the only person to run a pub quiz that has asked the question “Which TV pundit was done for kerb-crawling just round the corner from this pub?” only for the miscreant’s face to fill the screen seconds later. And I went through the whole World Cup without hearing the detestable Vindaloo once, which made it all worthwhile.
From WSC 234 August 2006. What was happening this month