Describing the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham as a ‘rugby pub’ is a bit like saying the stadium up the road has hosted a couple of decent games in its time.
For many fans, both locally and within the global rugby community, it is simply the greatest rugby pub on the planet. But it is more than that too: it is a community space, a comedy club, a live music venue, a local and, among many more things, it is also an employer of people with learning difficulties.
It is for those reasons that Stuart Green, who has overseen five Rugby World Cups in his 23 years in charge, is the latest winner of the BT Sport Manager of the Month trophy. But let’s start with what has put the Cabbage Patch on the map, and more specifically the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Stuart explains how the pub, which has been a Fuller’s managed house for eight years, has capitalised on the opportunity the tournament has presented.
“The World cup has been fantastic and we have shown all but every game. We have picked up a large number of Irish, Welsh and Scottish fans as well as being full for every England game.
As we have progressed in the tournament so has the interest. For the semi-final we had people queuing at 6.45am – an hour and a half before we opened.
And you might think that with The Cabbage Patch being such an iconic venue they would simply have to throw open the doors to continue their success, but Stuart and his team are constantly tweaking what they do.
“We have worked really hard to make customers feel comfortable coming in that early in the morning. We have made a real push about the non-alcoholic drinks that have been on offer, Heineken 0.0% has been really popular.”
He continues: “Rather than just offering the generic full English we have also offered a vegetarian and a vegan option, there’s porridge, croissants and smoked salmon. “The building has been decorated with Japanese lampshades and umbrellas and we worked with a local artist to make our own World Cup bunting. It features 20 captains from the 20 teams and people from all over the world have ordered it so we have been sending it out to them.”
For the final, Stuart has brought in two new TVs, set up more screens in the garden and booked a singer to perform Jerusalem and Swing Low. The pub’s social media accounts have been a great way of bringing people in over the course of the tournament. In fact, the advent of social media has been one of the biggest changes since Stuart’s first World Cup at the Cabbage Patch in 2003.
“It was amazing back then with England winning,” he says, “but one of the big differences you notice now is that as soon as England win people are going for their phones to capture the moment and share it with their friends.”
The array of rugby memorabilia within the pub, along with plenty of rugby fans, makes it ideal for such posts.
Once the dust has settled in Japan, Stuart is anticipating a positive legacy for the game. This is likely to generate even more interest in the wealth of live rugby available to pubs and clubs on BT Sport, such as the European Champions Cup and the Gallagher Premiership.
“We have seen more and more people coming in to watch televised BT Sport matches and if people can’t make the match they want to watch the highlights as well.
When the Gallagher Premiership matches are on it’s wonderful because the whole family are coming in, especially with matches on a Sunday, which has helped our Sunday roast trade.
“I expect to see a massive increase now off the back of the success of the World Cup.” And it isn’t just rugby. The Cabbage Patch shows an array of other sports such as Premier League and Champions League football, with fans mixing happily together. “We have two set top boxes so we can watch two matches at once. We have had couples where one likes football and the other likes rugby and they can watch both together, so everyone was happy.”
And rugby fans in general are a great crowd to attract according to Stuart. “The lovely thing about rugby is the inclusiveness. Rugby fans will happily go into any bar with any other fans and share the experience as long as the place is warm and welcoming with a great food and drink offer and great screens, they will watch rugby anywhere in the country.
Rugby fans tend to come in earlier and stay with you for longer than perhaps fans of other sports will. They will also stay loyal to you for seasons to come.
He provides plenty of reasons for them to stay loyal with a huge range of entertainment both rugby and non-rugby related, such as live music, comedy, and Q&As with players and pundits. The pub has also forged close links with amateur rugby teams who use the Cabbage Patch as their local. Inclusiveness is clearly important to Stuart and his team. So much so that he actively looks to recruit employees with learning difficulties who otherwise struggle to find work.
He explains: “Sport and rugby are massively important to us, but perhaps more important is being part of the community. We like to offer opportunities to people. We work hard with adults with learning difficulties to come and work in the pub.
“There is a skills shortage but these people are out there and the industry could be doing more to work with them.”
It’s for this work, as well as providing a pub that provides the perfect environment for rugby fans and beyond that has led to Stuart winning the BT Sport Manager of the Month trophy, along with a £1,000 voucher to spend in the BT shop. It’s an accolade of which he is clearly proud.
“It’s an absolute honour and a pleasure to win BT Sport Manager of the Month,” he says, “I am really chuffed for the team as well, for while I may front the business it’s all about the team and they are incredible.”
- Have you got what it takes to be a BT Sport Manager of the Month? Tell us why on Twitter, using the hashtag #BTMOTM, and you could be in with a chance of winning the prize.