In the 30 years that Mike White has been at the helm of The Cleveland Arms in Wolverhampton there have been huge changes at the pub and in the trade in general.
But one thing that has remained constant since he introduced it at the huge open plan Mitchells & Butlers venue, is the customer pulling power of live sport.
Over the last three decades, Mike has moved with the times and helped the pub grow from being a male-dominated boozer into an open plan sporting Mecca that is now family and female friendly.
And to recognise the way he has engaged customers, made the most of sport and put on some truly memorable events he has been awarded the BT Sport Manager of the Month Award.
“You have to agree with change, take it on board and find yourself famous for something and we found ourselves famous for sport,” he says. “We have driven sport for 30 years and it seems to have worked.”
Inside the 5,200 sq. ft. pub you will find an array of pool tables, dart boards, and signed sporting memorabilia from stars who have visited. You’ll also see 25 screens – plus a mega pulldown – which means you’ll never miss the best action.
Mike explains: “The big drivers for trade here are football and it helps with Wolves being in the Premier League, which has given the whole city a great big lift.
BT showing all the European football is great for us. There’s a big chance that Wolves could be in the Europa league next year. If Wolves are on TV more it would be great for us and great for the city of Wolverhampton.”
He continues: “We are also a big boxing pub and we get rammed for big fights. Then we do a lot for speedway. There’s the speedway track down the road and when Tai Woffinden (four time world champion and former Wolverhampton Wolves rider) is racing we get 40 to 50 people in here watching live on BT Sport.”
Woffinden has also visited the venue as have many other stars for The Cleveland’s hugely popular ‘nights with’ events.
Wolves legends such as Don Goodman and Kenny Miller, snooker stars such as Jimmy White, Steve Davis and John Higgins, and darts icons including Phil Taylor have all taken part in events.
Mike explains: “The first live event we ever did was Wayne Mardle and then we did one with Wayne Mardle and the late, great Eric Bristow and it just ballooned from there.
Every single top darter has played at The Cleveland Arms. On a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday it really boosts trade and it is fantastic for local people to see legends of sport in their local pub.”
The events are ticketed and there is even a VIP opportunity for those who are willing to pay a little bit more.
“We do charge ticket prices and it varies depending on who is here and what they cost,” says the GM.
“VIP tickets sell out very quickly. You get a guaranteed seat on the mezzanine, which is the best seat in the house. You get entry an hour earlier to meet the star and your photo with them is included in the price.
“If it is a darting event you get the chance to play against them, with football it is a Q&A and the same with the speedway. The guys are great and they mix well with the crowd.”
The events are usually at capacity thanks to the pub’s reputation and the way they are promoted on social media.
Mike adds: “Social media is massively important to the business. It’s the fastest growing thing.
“We also have great assets from BT Sport that we use and put out there. It’s great for interaction and to promote live games.”
It has helped Mike bring greater sporting experiences to his customers. He is doing something similar for publicans in his role as a sporting ambassador for Mitchells & Butlers.
“I visit the pubs and make sure they are making the most of live sport. It is also about helping them utilise the facilities they have got such as pool tables and dart tables.”
As such, he has also been responsible for coordinating a local pool league, which helps bring business to pubs in the area.
It has all led to his recognition with the BT Sport Manager of the Month Award, something he is rightly proud of.
“Being BT Sport Manager of the Month is a fantastic achievement for the whole team. The trophy will go on the bar and the money (a £1,000 voucher) to spend in the BT shop is fantastic. I’ve had a look and I’m thinking of getting a 4K TV and a new sound bar.”
It means that Mike will continue to enhance what is already an incredible sporting offer.