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Licence holders in England and Wales: key considerations ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019

The Rugby World Cup is being staged this year in Japan. Matches are between Friday 20 September and Saturday 2 November, so there is just under 8 weeks of rugby.

Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales have all qualified and are some of the favourites to make it to the latter stages of the tournament. As such, there is likely to be a growing interest from customers as the tournament progresses.

Japan is 9 hours ahead of the UK, so matches kick off in the mornings, between 5:45am and 11:45am. Luckily the home nations’ matches tend to be scheduled from around 8.45am or later, but there may be some additional considerations around opening hours and the conditions of your licence.

What permissions do you need to show the rugby?

The rugby will be shown on ITV, so there is no need to obtain a Sky or BT subscription to show it. ITV is a free to air channel, so there is no fee due to them directly.

Given that there will be music between matches and in advert breaks etc, you will likely need to ensure that you have the correct PRS/PPL permission.

As showing live TV is not a licensable activity, there is no need for a premises licence to show the rugby if you are not undertaking other licensable activities such as sales of alcohol or providing regulated entertainment.

What if my hours of opening do not allow me to open that early?

Whilst it can be argued that if you are not providing licensable activities, opening earlier should not be an issue, the council may take the view that the hours of opening are effectively a condition on your licence that you would be breaching. As such, it would be best to seek a minor variation to allow you to open earlier in order to show the matches.

What if I want to do breakfasts?

As selling hot food and hot drinks are not licensable activities between 5am and 11pm, you do not need a licence to do this. As such, so long as you are entitled to open, you can provide breakfasts and coffee to the early morning viewers without needing a licence to do so.

What about selling alcohol during the matches?

If your premises licence permits you to sell alcohol during the matches, then clearly you are fine, so long as you do not sell it earlier than the permitted hours. Do not be tempted to sell the odd pint of Guinness early, however, as officers have been known to do checks, especially where premises are advertising they are showing the World Cup.

There are a few other things you should check:

Non-standard timings

Firstly, some premises licences have conditions that allow the holder to show international sporting events and sell alcohol even if it's outside the ordinary hours. This is often shown on the licence as a 'non-standard timing'. It is well worth checking your licence now to see if that would be permitted. Sometimes to use this condition, you will need to notify the police or other officers that you intend to do so, so worth making sure you do that in good time.

Secondly some licences may have a general condition on them permitting extensions of hours outside of the TEN's framework. Often there is a limit of 10 or 12 such events and normally the licence holder must give notice or get the approval of the local Police before using the extensions. Again, it is worth checking licences now.

If you have a limit on the number of 'events' you can have, then make sure you do not apply for more than permitted. If you need more 'events', see the section on TENs below.

Using TENs

If non-standard timings do not apply, then you may want to utilise TENs. A simple summary of the rules are:

  • You must notify at least 10 working days in advance of each 'event'
  • You must notify the police and EH officer, unless you are applying online
  • You may have a maximum of 15 TENs in any calendar year
  • An event can last a maximum of 7 days and there must be 24 hours gap between events
  • You are permitted no more than 21 days total across the 15 events
  • No more than 499 persons can be in attendance at any event.

Assuming that you have not used any TENs already this year, using TENS for every match won't work as there are more days/ events than TENs available. However, if you wanted to only show certain matches, you may be able to make the TENs system work for you.

If all the home nations have a long run into the latter stages of the tournament then TENs might run out. In any event, you are likely to use up most TENS, which doesn’t leave any more between then and the Christmas period. Factor this into your calculation if you host Christmas parties or other events requiring TENs.

Depending on when you are permitted to start selling alcohol, if you factor in that the final, both semi-finals and two of the quarter finals all kick off at 9am or earlier, you begin to see that this will need careful planning to get right.

Can I vary my licence?

The other option is to apply for a variation to your premises licence. As you will effectively be extending hours for the sale of alcohol, you will need to apply for a full variation to do one of the following:

  • Extend the hours for sales of alcohol every morning
  • Add a condition allowing extensions in the morning for either the world cup specifically or 'sporting events' in general
  • Add a condition allowing extensions for unnamed 'events', with the permission of the police

The application that has most chance of success without objections is likely to be the one that is simply to allow the showing of World Cup rugby in the mornings. It might be worth considering adding in British and Irish Lions tours at the same time, as when they are in Australia or New Zealand, they start early morning. However, if you are looking at showing other sporting events, then it might be that the application can be widened out- albeit there is a risk of more objections. You are certainly more likely to face objections if you try to extend hours late at night as well as early morning.

When would I need to apply to vary my licence?

The World Cup starts in late September, and with applications to vary a premises licence taking up to 2 months (although they can be granted within 1 if no objections are made), time is running out.

A discussion with the police and licensing officer in the first place with a proposal they can consider may save time in the long run.


Should you want to look at making a variation, or want to discuss anything in this note, please feel free to call one of our licensing team.

Format of the tournament and key games

The tournament is based around 4 pools of 5 teams each, with the top 2 teams qualifying for the knockout stages. The knockout stages begin with the quarter finals on the weekend of 19 and 20 October (8.15 and 11.15 kick off times). Quarter finals will be held the weekend of 26 and 27 October (8.15 and 11.15 kick off times). Third place play-off will be held Friday 1 November at 9am and the final on Saturday 2 November, which will also kick off at 9am.

England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales matches

The pool matches for the home nations are:

  • Scotland V Ireland         Sunday 22 September 8:45am
  • England V Tonga          Sunday 22 September 11:15am
  • Wales V Georgia           Monday 23 September 11:15am
  • England V USA             Thursday 26 September 11:45am
  • Japan V Ireland             Saturday 28 September  8.15 am
  • Wales V Australia          Sunday 29 September 8:45am
  • Scotland V Samoa        Monday 30 September 11:15am
  • Ireland V Russia            Thursday 3 October 11:15 am
  • England V Argentina      Saturday 5 October 9:00am
  • Scotland V Russia         Wednesday 9 October 8:15am
  • Wales V Fiji                   Wednesday 9 October 10:45am
  • England V France          Saturday 12 October 9:15am
  • Ireland V Samoa            Saturday 12 October 11:45am
  • Wales V Uruguay           Sunday 13 October 9:15
  • Scotland V Japan          Sunday 13 October 11:45am

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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