My dad is a football fanatic, and I don’t mean he loves the Seahawks. He is a die-hard fan of what Americans refer to as soccer. When I was a kid I was woken up most weekend mornings to the sounds of him and his football buddies yelling at the TV. By the time I had eaten breakfast around 9 a.m. it was already over and they were heading out the door.
One time I asked my dad why he got up at such an ungodly hour just to watch a football game. “Why don’t you just TiVo it?” I asked.
Several reasons, apparently. First, my dad told me it’s crucial not to accidentally stumble upon the score before the game, or all the excitement will be ruined.
But he also likes feeling connected to the other fans out there watching.
“If you know the game is going on, you feel like you’re a part of it when you watch it live,” my dad explained.
For my dad and many other fans of English football in the Seattle area, getting together to watch live football games creates a sense of community with other English immigrants and helps them feel connected to their friends and family back home.
For those who are oblivious about soccer (like me), here are the basics: England’s national football league is called the Barclay’s Premiere League, but everyone refers to it as the EPL, which is short for English Premier League. There are 20 teams in the first division and four professional divisions. The top team wins the EPL, and the teams that are most likely to win this season are Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
My dad refers to English football as soccer when he talks about the sport with Americans, but he said he doesn’t particularly like the term.
“I’ll use the term soccer so people know what I’m talking about, but I don’t really like it,” my dad said. “Sometimes I’ll call it ‘the real football’ to wind up American football fans.”
If an important game is on, no matter what time it is, British pubs will be packed. One of the most popular ones in Seattle is The George and Dragon in Fremont.
The George is owned by two English football fanatics who understand the importance of watching games live. When a game is on at 7 a.m., they will open early and turn their multiple flat screen TVs to the right channel. If the game is important, fans will come.
“We do open as early as 7 a.m. for the games, and sometimes even at 6 a.m.,” said John Ravenhill, co-owner of The George. “Usually when people come in they’ll get a cup of coffee, start watching the game and then get their first pint of Guinness and a bit of breakfast.”
Ravenhill and his business partner, John Bayliss, opened the pub in 1995 so English football fans could have a place to watch the games. The two met while working on a construction site in Seattle and bonded over their mutual love of football, but felt frustrated that there was nowhere they could watch the games.
“There were some other places that showed games, but they usually only showed the cup final,” said Ravenhill. “So [Bayliss] and I decided we’d open this pub and show football and it just sort of blossomed from there.”
The George’s operating hours revolve around the EPL’s game schedule. A spreadsheet on the pub’s website lists which games will be on, what time they will be shown and if they will be shown live.
There are multiple games each day so The George doesn’t play some of the less prominent games, and many aren’t shown live due to the time difference between England and Seattle.
When I went to The George on a Saturday morning, the Arsenal vs. Brighton game that was on at 10 a.m. originally aired at 7 that morning.
Ten a.m. is still too early for many people to consider setting foot in a bar, but there were about 20 people by game time. As fans trickled in they were greeted warmly by the rest of the group.
Mallory Alberts, who has been bartending at The George for almost three years, said almost all the customers are regulars.
“It’s kind of a small community here,” said Alberts. “It’s always interesting to see somebody that hasn’t been in before, because that’s the first person you notice.”
Andrew Bardwell has been friends with Ravenhill and Bayliss since he moved to Seattle from London in 1992 and joined their soccer team. He comes to The George every weekend to watch the games.
“I can watch the games at home on cable, but I like to come down here instead,” Bardwell said. “There’s a lot of Arsenal fans, so it’s nice to be in a crowd that has a similar interest in the game and the team as me.”
Ravenhill said there are almost never fights between rival fans, but if someone gives away the score it could cause quite an argument.
“That is something that will upset people here,” Ravenhill said. “And it’s happened before, so now if I see new people I’ll let them know [not to say the score] so they don’t spoil it for everyone else.”
Alberts said after watching the games together for so long all of the regular customers have become friends regardless of what team they support.
It’s their little piece of England in Seattle,” said Ravenhill.
Other places to watch English football:
Fado’s Irish Pub: This popular after-work watering hole on 1st Street shows games several times a week.
The Market Arms: Another authentic English pub owned by Ravenhill and Bayliss, but this one is located in Ballard and shows American football in addition to EPL games.
The Dray: A homey Ballard bar that shows most EPL matches. Bonus: It’s dog friendly.
St. Andrew’s Bar and Grill: This Greenlake bar is a classic hangout for English football fanatics.