POLL: Should children be in pubs for Euros?

Should kids be allowed into pubs to watch matches, or is it better to keep them at home? Two mums debate the issue

POLL: Should children be in pubs for Euros?

YES

I always take my children to the pub to watch soccer, where they can share their passion with other fans, and learn how to react to victory or defeat, says Heidi Scrimgeour

YES, I plan to take my football-loving kids (Edan, 11, Zack, nine, and Alba, two) to our local, family-friendly pub to watch Euro matches, and anyone who tells me not to can just jog on.

Why? Because taking my children to the pub to watch the football is a regular family pastime, so I firmly resent the narrow-minded notion that I must be some feckless welfare-scrounger and that I should be at home putting her children to bed, instead.

Watching footie en famille in the pub isn’t a practice we reserve for ‘special’ games, like the Euro Championships. We’ve been doing this ever since my middle child figured out that our refusal to fork out for Sky means most of the matches he’d love to watch are only viewable from the local boozer. He dreams of playing professionally some day, but, for now, the pub is as close as he can get to watching football live.

I understand the arguments against taking children to the pub to watch the football. “Aggression, bad language, poor sportsmanship; I’ve never been to a game or watched one in a pub that hasn’t featured all of the above,” claims a friend. “Not to mention a bit of racism/sectarianism chucked in, depending on who’s playing. Why expose a child to all that?” To be frank, my sons are regularly exposed to such things on the pitch and in the playground. Sad, but true. So it’s not as if taking them to the pub to watch the football is somehow spoiling their innocence or sullying the beautiful game. If anything, it’s showing them a wider context and helping them learn what being a true fan is all about.

The secret is to choose your pub carefully — our favourite isn’t rammed or raucous; it’s virtually an extension of our living room, but with better snacks and beer on tap. That said, we don’t choose our match location for the liqueur. We’re more likely to sink Diet Cokes than pints of cider, when we’re parenting from the pub, and this habit flourished during my husband’s recent year of being teetotal. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve running round a beer garden with a gang of instant friends; football orphans, relishing the chance to stay up late, while the adults were distracted by the score.

When Northern Ireland won their Euro match, on Thursday, we weren’t in the pub, but, as my son leapt into my arms, propelled by joy and incredulity, I felt his heart beating beneath my hand, almost fit to burst with pride. I can’t wait for him to experience that in a community, with fizzy drinks and other fans. Should any of the teams we’re supporting be defeated, the children will also learn that the sting of losing can be soothed by doing it gracefully alongside others who share your dismay.

As for people who tut-tut about my children being in the pub at match-time, I can only assume they don’t have children like mine, whose passion for football knows no bounds. I wish you’d leave your judgy pants at home and let this little family enjoy the game in peace. Better still, pull up a chair and join us. Because the true joy of sharing football fever with your children in the pub can’t be opined; it has to be experienced to be understood. This round’s on us.

NO

A pub is no place for excitable children who can’t sit still, and particularly not when their parents are fixated on a TV, says Arlene Harris

THE country has gone football mad, with every Tom, Dick, and Harriet talking about the Euros. I am by no means a soccer fan, but I will admit to watching some of the Ireland games, as my instinctive, competitive streak wants the Boys in Green to triumph.

And, of course, there is nowhere more atmospheric to watch an Ireland game, of any sport, than down the pub with a crowd of mates, or even amongst strangers united by a common goal (pardon the pun).

But this camaraderie should be reserved for adults, or at least children who have reached an age where they have an active interest in the match and can sit, like everyone around them, fixated by a TV screen for a whole hour and a half.

A booze-filled pub, full of either excited and high-octane revellers or, worse, a crowd of defeated sorrow-drowning supporters, is no place for children. But as the Euro 16 train rumbles on, more and more of our drinking houses seem to be filled with children gleefully off the hook from their parents, who are more interested in the big screen than what their offspring are up to.

I have experience from both sides of the counter, and can assure you that most bar-tenders and waiters do not revel in untethered youngsters running around their premises causing havoc — God forbid they should trip, catch their fingers in a door, or run into the legs of a passing member of staff carrying hot food or drink. I think we all know how quick the parents will be to point the finger of blame if their child gets hurt. Parents seem to be under the misguided illusion that while they are handing over ‘good money’ for drinks, they can all but ignore their children.

And before anyone starts yelling at me for not having a clue what parents have to go through to get a few hours of peace, I have three of my own, and while I often brought them to restaurants when they were small, or to bars when we were away on holiday, they were under strict instructions to stay put for the duration (usually the length of a meal or one drink in a bar) and if they needed to go to the toilet or have a walk around, I would always go with them.

It isn’t fair on other customers, who have left their own children with a babysitter or simply fancy a night-out in a child-free zone. It also isn’t fair on the staff, whose jobs are difficult enough without worrying about tripping over a minor and, lastly, and probably most importantly, it isn’t fair on the children.

A meal in a restaurant is fair enough, as most can sit still while they eat their food, but, in reality, after a few pictures coloured with the complimentary crayons, the majority of youngsters will be itching to break free, and who could blame them?

In a pub, it is even more difficult for them to sit in one spot, particularly if there is a match on, as their parents will be ignoring them (while all eyes are understandably on the ball). There is a limit to the amount of fizzy drinks and crisps they can stomach and they will soon become bored — so forcing them to sit still just isn’t fair. Neither is the fact that, in many cases, they will be exposed to people who are drunk and disorderly, and possibly even posing a safety threat, as they unwittingly stumble about, while getting carried away with the excitement of the match. All in all, it’s not a good environment for young children.

So, as our Boys in Green prepare to take on Italy tomorrow night, do everyone a favour (including yourself) and book a babysitter, if you are planning to watch the match in a pub. Or, if that isn’t possible, invite some friends round and watch it at home — because, at the end of the day, the pub is not a crèche.

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