From early days, pubs were influential in the growth of sport. The immediate vision that comes to mind is a pub dart tournament but pubs also nurtured other sports which don’t come to mind as readily. Publicans were instrumental in promoting the growth of cricket, horse-racing and prize fighting.
In later years pubs were instrumental in the promotion of football. Before football gained in popularity, many players got their start by playing for pub teams. With no club facilities, pubs close to grounds were used as team changing areas. Sponsoring a team was a smart move for a publican as teams and spectators would need to slake their thirsts win or loose. There were benefits for the teams and for the publicans in their on-going relationship.
While he ran a pub on Freemasons Road in Canning town, Henry Booth was associated with the Thames Iron Foundry team. This team became West Ham United. Was his assistance instrumental in getting the team off the ground? It is hard to tell. Perhaps their relationship went the same way as other publican/team associations. As football became commercially viable, the teams didn’t need the support of publicans or brewers anymore. “With the commercial possibilities of the game seemingly infinite, instead of football being played where the drink was, the drink followed the game.”*
Flanders, Judith. Consuming Passions. Harper Perennial, London, 2007. *p 449
Jennings, Paul. The Local: A History of the English Pub. Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2007