The British government made a u-turn on Monday and announced that it would extend famously strict last orders so that bars and pubs can screen England’s matches.
Under laws usually reserved for royal occasions, pubs will stay open past the usual closing time of 11:00 pm until 1:00 am, to take account of the time difference for England’s opening game against Italy on June 14, Home Secretary Theresa May said.
The extension does not affect England’s two other group matches against Uruguay and Costa Rica which kick off at 8:00 pm and 5:00 pm respectively.
But the relaxation could come into force again if England reach the knockout stages — and if those matches, which kick off at 9:00 pm, go into extra-time.
“The government has decided to relax licensing hours nationally to mark England’s participation in the tournament,” May said in a statement to parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron in February overruled an earlier decision by the Home Office, or interior ministry, to turn down a request from the pub industry to push back last orders.
The ministry had instead said that individual pubs had to apply for one-off late licences at a cost of £21 (26 euros, $35 dollars).
The British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) had asked for the extension on the grounds that it would provide a £20 million World Cup boost to the economy.
But health campaigners have opposed the move on the grounds that it could fuel Britain’s notorious binge-drinking culture.
Britain relaxes pub opening times to mark occasions of “exceptional international, national or local significance” such as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
But with England’s international footballers enduring a dry spell since winning the World Cup at home in 1966, commentators say fans will more likely need a stiff drink to ease the pain of defeat than a celebratory tipple.