Trade giving rugby a try

Tournament offers publicans the chance to score points with customers

• International rugby matches are a big crowd-puller for the Murrayfield Bar in Edinburgh.
• International rugby matches are a big crowd-puller for the Murrayfield Bar in Edinburgh.

IN what is a bumper year for sport, publicans are to get their first try at cashing in on busy match days in the coming weeks as the 6 Nations gets underway on February 1.

And it seems preparation is key, as the international tournaments attract more than just regular sports fans, according to operators contacted by SLTN.
The broad appeal of the 6 Nations is a positive that’s been picked up on by Shane Williams, manager at Aberdeen sports bar Enigma.
“All ages watch the rugby,” said Williams, who described the tournament as “massive” for the bar with matches featuring Scotland, England and Ireland proving the most popular.
“Usually there’s a lot more women watch the rugby than the football.
“Even people who don’t regularly watch the rugby will come in because it’s a patriotic thing and the banter is good.”
However, Williams doesn’t rely solely on the popularity of fixtures to bring in the crowd; he also focuses on creating the right atmosphere for a big rugby match.
“We have pies at half time and we’ll probably have an offer on a drink that day,” said Williams, “Maybe Guinness for an Ireland game and a malt for Scotland matches.”
Williams also reaches out to local businesses in an attempt to build an atmosphere and boost sales for both over the course of the tournament.
“We get the staff to dress up as well,” he said.
“We try and do deals with the local sports shops to get the staff wearing shirts and give them a bit of advertising. It just adds a bit to the atmosphere.”
A good atmosphere can make all the difference in terms of footfall – and having the right audio visual equipment is part of the package.
“The last thing you want is dodgy speakers and bad reception,” added Williams.
“People need to hear it. You need to bring in the atmosphere.
“You’ve got to look at your crowd as well; if it’s all the boys in for a big game you turn the sound up.”
Located a stone’s throw from the home of Scottish rugby in Edinburgh, the Murrayfield Bar doesn’t have too much trouble filling up during the 6 Nations.
“It’s far bigger [than the FIFA World Cup] for us,” licensee Lee Russell told SLTN.
“The only things bigger are concerts at Murrayfield. It has a massive impact across all the pubs.”
Footfall during the 6 Nations might not be an issue at the Murrayfield Bar, but Russell said preparation is key if the pub is to operate at capacity over several weekends.
“There’s no need to attract customers but we do plan for more staff, door staff and additional stock,” said Russell, who believes it’s crucial not to compromise on quality despite the capacity crowds.
To help achieve this he uses January as the month to restock on items such as branded glassware.
“Rugby fans are quite discerning,” added Russell.
“They like a quality pint in a nice glass, well presented.”
Therese Grethe, general manager at Waxy O’Connor’s in Glasgow, agreed on the need to provide a quality experience.
In the run up to the tournament the bar is decorated with flags and preparations are made for extra staff hours and provisions for the kitchen.
Grethe said the team at Waxy’s also actively promotes the tournament to drive footfall on match days.
“It’s mainly adverts in Scrum magazine, internal marketing, e-flyers and social media,” she said.
“I think [social media] is important because it reminds people. They might get up in the morning and think ‘I’ll go there’.”
Despite competition from the off-trade and the 6 Nations being screened on terrestrial television, Grethe expects the pubs will still draw rugby fans out.
“It’s such an electric atmosphere,” she added.
“If a try is scored and you’re at home it’s good but in the pub if a try is scored everyone is hugging and singing. You can’t beat it.”

6 Nations fixtures

Sunday February 2
15:00, Ireland v Scotland

Saturday February 8
17:00, Scotland v England

Saturday February 22
13:30, Italy v Scotland

Saturday March 8
17:00, Scotland v France

Saturday March 15
14:45, Wales v Scotland