Gallery owner turned licensee puts female footballers in the picture

Michelle Payne of the Ingate Free House is January’s #BTMOTM

A landlady who has thrown her support behind her local woman’s football team has won BT Sport’s Manager of the Month award for January.

Michelle Payne, licensee at The Ingate Free House, in Suffolk, was quick off the mark to support Beccles Town Ladies FC when the side formed in August last year.

The move shows how important Michelle believes women’s sport is. It has also helped her attract new customers to her sports-led freehouse with players and supporters regularly visiting.

She received the prize for broadening the appeal of her wet-led pub by getting involved with women’s sport.

Michelle explained: “Our pub was mainly male orientated, as is sports, so it was great to back the team and show the girls their worth by sponsoring them.

“The Ingate is changing attitudes to how a traditional pub has been in the past – as we strive to take things forward in as positive way.

“We don’t need to compete with gastro pubs, or major outlets, we need to be inclusive, a friendly place to go to, and to show that as a female or a male you can just pop in and have access to what you have at home, only in a more sociable environment.

“We are so proud that BT Sport has recognised our achievements.”

Michelle is used to changing perceptions. Previously she brought art to the masses by running a gallery in Beccles before turning her attention to pubs.

As well as supporting Beccles Town Ladies she screens a wide range of sport including the Women’s Super League – which you can see on BT Sport – and women’s rugby.

She added: “More women are coming in to watch both men and women play. It is enjoyable for me to see how women are more interactive in a pub atmosphere when the games are on.”

She received her BT Sports Manager of the Month trophy on Friday February 9 from England and Reading midfielder Fara Williams.

As part of the prize she will receive a 4K TV, to go with the eight other screens she already has. She now plans to put one in the pub’s outside area ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bruce Cuthbert, director of commercial customers, BT Sport, said: “Congratulations to Michelle and the team on winning the BT Sport Manager of the Month award for January.

“Both sport and pubs are evolving to become more inclusive and the excellent work Michelle is doing at the Ingate with Beccles Town Ladies FC reflects this.”

The nomination process for the February BT Sport Manager of the Month is now underway. Customers can nominate licensees and managers they think are worthy of winning by tweeting @BTSportBars using the hashtag #BTMOTM.

Previous winners include Kevin McGhee at The Diggers in Edinburgh and Vicky Martin at The Sup & Chow in Cheltenham.

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