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Licensing and Major Sporting Events

I could have written this article about the Rugby World Cup 2019 that takes place in Japan from the 20th of September until the 2nd of November but actually, I think the principles have wider application than just one tournament taking place in the Far East.

Why am I writing this you ask? Well, because there are three certainties in life – death, taxes and that, without fail, someone will phone me up on the first day of a major tournament asking for help in order to show the games and provide Licensable Activities whilst doing so.

Major sporting events, be that the Fifa World Cup, the Olympics or the Ashes are planned years in advance and if the sporting bodies (who tend to lurch from scandal to scandal) can have the foresight to plan ahead, why shouldn’t Premises Licence Holders?

Particular issues arise where events are held in countries where the time difference is such that games are shown at times that are incompatible with most Premises Licences. The Rugby World Cup is an excellent illustration of this. Pool games kick-off times range between 12:15pm and 19:45pm local time, that’s 4:15am (if you really want to watch Namibia vs. Canada) to 11:45am. The Rugby World Cup Final kick-off is at 18:00 local time which is 09:00am here. Not many Premises benefit from a Premises Licence that authorises Licensable Activities from 04:15 onwards though some might be lucky enough to be winding up about that time.

One thing is certain. People are going to want to watch the games and people will adjust their schedules and their behaviours in order to watch their national teams – the lengths people will go to in order to watch live sport never cease to amaze me. My dear old Dad, for example, will get up in the middle of the night to watch the Australian Grand Prix. Not just the race either, the man will also get up and watch all the practice sessions and the qualifying! Lunacy, in my view, because at the point I’m usually in bed dreaming about obtaining 24 hour Premises Licences with no conditions or Summary Review applications being dismissed with no action taken at all but he’ll do it – year in, year out.

So, what can you do in order to bring sport to the masses and, I hope, turn a healthy profit in the process? First and foremost – CHECK YOUR PREMISES LICENCE – you may discover that, actually, you need do nothing at all but assuming that’s not the case and action is required there are a number of options.

Temporary Event Notices or TENs

You could give (apply for) a TEN in order to provide Licensable Activities outside the hours of your Premises Licence to, effectively, “bridge the gap” between your Authorisation and the event timings.

On the face of it, TENs seem like a good idea and if you only plan to show selected fixtures then they may be the way forwards. Problems arise however, due to the restrictions on the number of TENs that can be given per annum at a given premises (15 TENs covering no more than 21 days).

You wouldn’t for example, be able to show all the fixtures of the Rugby World Cup 2019 on TENs alone.

One advantage of TENs is that you can give the notices up until quite late in the day (5 clear working days before the event for a Late TEN and 10 clear working days for a TEN) so if you’ve missed the boat on the other options below, never fear.


Another option is to apply to vary your existing Premises Licence to take into account additional hours needed for the Major Sporting Event. You would need to go through the formal application process of making an application to the Licensing Authority, advertising the application on site and in a local newspaper and serving a copy of the application on the Responsible Authorities (unless you apply online).

One problem with this approach is that the Responsible Authorities (and Other Persons for that matter) might not be terrifically keen on you increasing your hours in perpetuity. A way around that might be to apply for “non-standard timings” specifically for Major Sporting Events. Your application would need to be very clear what you are applying for and when and so it might be worth having a Licensing Solicitor (hint, hint, hintity, hint, hint) have a look at the application for you to make sure you’re not making things worse for yourself.

Another potential pitfall of this approach is that some Licensing Authorities take the approach, on a variation, that they can have a look at other aspects of the Premises Licence too so if your beer garden or smokers are creating a racket then you might be taking on more than you bargained for!

Premises Licence Application

Alternatively, you could apply for a whole new Premises Licence. Why on earth would you do that I hear you ask? Well, first and foremost it protects your existing permission from interference from the powers that be. If you don’t get what you want or you end up with onerous conditions you simply bin the licence and carry on with your existing Premises Licence. Second, the costs, timescales and requirements for a Premises Licence application are identical to those for a variation so you would not be placing yourself at a disadvantage time-wise. Third, Licensing Authorities will generally accept a Premises Licence application that is “traded off” against the surrender of your existing Premises Licence and will often view the application differently than an outright new Premises Licence application.

The problem though is this – you may have an old licence, perhaps even one that came with you on conversion in 2005 and should therefore be coveted and looked after carefully. The Licensing Act 2003 is now 14 years old and, like a stroppy teenager, Licensing Authorities are starting to get wise to the ways of the world. Statements of Licensing Policy (which every Licensing Authority must have) are becoming more sophisticated and more tailored to suit the kinds of environments councils want to push. It may come as a surprise to you but, in policy terms, your pub or bar may no longer be flavour of the month so any application should be approached with a degree of caution and with sound advice (I’m hoping the first hint was enough, but you never know).

I’ve probably made all these options sound terrible but there is a correct answer, in my view, and that is an application for a time-limited Premises Licence.

Time limited Premises Licences are usually the province of festivals and outdoor events where the applicant will apply to provide Licensable Activities between X and Y and only between X and Y. But if the Fifa World Cup is a “festival of football” why should that approach not work equally for bricks and mortar operators? Think about it – you make your application for a time-limited Premises Licence, it has Major Sporting Event all over it and the timings marry up perfectly with the fixtures. You propose appropriate and proportionate conditions to promote the four Licensing Objectives for the duration of the Premises Licence. You risk assess the different hours and have that in your back pocket just in case questions are asked. Starting to look like an attractive proposition both for operators and for Licensing Authorities no? Remember, there can be more than one Authorisation (Premises Licence) in place at any given Premises or part thereof.

So if it was my money, my Premises that’s how I’d do it. A time-limited Premises Licence set up specifically for the purpose of a Major Sporting Event.

There are, of course, a whole host of other things you’re going to want to think about in terms of providing Licensable Activities during Major Sporting Events but hey, I’m a solicitor not a charity so if you’d like to know more please get in touch.