Talks underway to open UK pubs early for Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain

Talks are underway between UK government departments about allowing pubs and bars to open earlier than usual for fans watching England play Spain in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, which will kick off at 11am UK time, The Athletic can reveal.

The UK has various restrictive licensing laws, such as prohibiting the sale of alcohol before 10am on Sunday, and venues like pubs have specific hours they are allowed to stay open. However such rules can be temporarily relaxed by the Home Secretary for “an occasion of exceptional international, national, or local significance”.

Recent examples of such orders include royal events such as jubilees and weddings and the FIFA World Cup in 2014, which was based in Brazil meaning that many games finished late at night in the UK.

An order means that licensed premises can open outside the hours permitted by their licence for a specific event, without the need to apply for a temporary event licence.

It is not yet confirmed that this will be the case but talks were underway on Wednesday.

The UK government has also said there are “no plans” for a public holiday if England win the World Cup.

“We congratulate the Lionesses on their fantastic achievement in getting to the Women’s World Cup final,” a spokesperson said. “The current pattern of public and bank holidays is well established and there are no plans to change this.” 

The Home Office was approached for comment.

The opening weekend of the Women’s National League, will also go ahead as planned despite being scheduled for the same day as the final.

Fixtures from the opening weekend of the league, which encompasses the third tier and below in English football, do not directly clash with the final, with the day’s earliest matches kicking off at 2pm (BST).

However, travel commitments and match preparation mean National League players will still risk missing some, if not all, of Sunday’s final.

The kick-off of some fixtures have been delayed to accommodate the final.

A National League spokesperson said: “FA Women’s National League fixtures will go ahead as scheduled this Sunday. It was agreed by the league and its member clubs in June that the season should start on August 20th. With it known this would be the date of the Women’s World Cup Final, the league and clubs have taken steps to ensure players, staff and fans can still enjoy the final.

“Where possible, fixtures have been selected to involve minimal travel, some have moved kick-off times to later in the afternoon, and others have been moved to midweek. Many clubs across the league will be getting together with their fans and community on Sunday to cheer the Lionesses on, before welcoming in another exciting season of Women’s National League football.”

Matches from the opening weekend of the Women’s National League that are scheduled to kick off at 2pm include Derby County against 2021-22 beaten promotion play-off finalists Wolverhampton Wanderers, newly-promoted and newly-professional Newcastle United against Halifax and Ipswich Town’s trip to Cardiff City.

Some fixtures have had their kick-off times pushed back, including last season’s beaten play-off finalists Nottingham Forest’s visit of Stourbridge, which has been moved to 4pm.

England beat hosts Australia 3-1 in Wednesday’s semi-finals to book their place in Sunday’s showpiece; the first time England have reached a World Cup final since the men’s team won on home soil in 1966.

Ella Toone’s goal saw England take the lead in the first half before a wonder strike from Sam Kerr levelled the match. But late goals from Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo sent England through to the final in Sydney.

The game is likely to attract a huge audience in England where enthusiasm for women’s football is particularly high after the Lionesses become European Champions on home soil last summer. England’s 2-1 victory over Germany in the Euro 2022 final was watched by a peak audience of 17.5million on BBC One.


The story of England reaching the World Cup final, told from Sydney, London and Rotherham

(Photo: Naomi Baker -The FA via Getty Images)

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