Despite cricket’s recent boost in popularity, football is not dead yet; certainly judging by the scenes round my way last Saturday. Does Sky have a financial interest in some of the companies that sell illegal satellite equipment to pubs so they can receive live football from foreign television channels? Whether they do or not, the somewhat odd decision for Sky not to televise the Manchester derby a few days ago certainly gave a fillip to that black market industry. So it was that at the unusual hour of three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon (a crazy time to hold a football match) I went out with my dad to try and watch City versus United, beamed live from Old Trafford.
Our first stop, the George & Dragon, was quickly dismissed. A true blue City pub that I knew would show the game (it was there that I watched our victory over Sunderland, live and illegal thanks to some Danish broadcaster) I was not wholly surprised to find the beer garden with its huge outside screen totally mobbed; the bar was five deep, at least. It didn’t look too much fun, so we decided to hop in my car and go on a tour of our locality.
I suspected The Greyhound would be showing the match (last season I stumbled upon them showing our game against Arsenal live from Highbury), but many other people had obviously thought the same. The car park was chocker, and as I couldn’t immediately see anywhere else to park we decided to try the British Legion, which I had been told would be showing the game. Surely the Legion wouldn’t be that busy, would they?
Wrong; we actually got turned away as they were so full, probably the first time anyone has been turned away from the Legion in the entire history of the organisation. With that my knowledge of pubs likely to have access to the game was exhausted. Where next?
We decided to give the Kenilworth a go, and we were in luck, of sorts. There was no doubt they were showing the game; you could tell by the way people were standing in the car park looking through the doors, craning their necks for a view of the big screen. The car park itself was also full, so people had been forced to liberally abandon their vehicles here, there and everywhere, blocking junctions and driveways. Let’s try somewhere else, we thought.
We thought we’d give The Greyhound one last drive by to see if there was anywhere to park, but on arrival, when we saw it was now as packed as the Kenilworth, we decided to sack it. Clearly anywhere that was showing the game would be ridiculously mobbed; we parked the car back at my house and decided to pop into the Red Lion where we knew we could just follow the City game and the cricket on Sky Sports News while having a drink.
When we got there The Red was busier than expected, and it instantly became clear why; they were also showing the game, but fortunately for us they didn’t appear to have advertised the fact so that while we had to stand to watch the match we were at least not crushed. The pub gradually filled up a bit during our stay, as people phoned their mates to tell them where the game was on, but it remained bearable. While there I learned that The Weavers was also showing the match; they must have only recently invested in the criminal equipment, as they didn’t show the City-Sunderland game a few weeks ago. In fact, at the moment, I haven’t got any solid evidence that there is a single pub in the land that didn’t show the derby match; does anyone know of an exception to this rule?
So it was that last Saturday the purveyors of illegal satellite gear to Greater Manchester were left laughing all the way to the bank, and I was able to enjoy a few pints while watching the most dreadfully boring derby match of recent years.