Football’s coming home: How to host the ultimate World Cup party
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With England riding high after Tuesday, there’s still time to host a World Cup party for the Sweden match. Richard Burton asked the experts for advice...
There are few better excuses than a major sporting event like the World Cup to clear a bit of space, open the patio doors and make a party of it.
Back in 1998, I hosted one for parents of prep school kids at St Albans’ St Columba’s College. What began as a plan to get a few friends round turned into something of an event as more and more of the 4x4 drivers that lined King Harry Lane every morning said yes.
Add to that the fact that all the neighbours we’d casually mentioned it to were up for it as well and the reasonable metric you’d apply to this – ask 10, five say yes, three turn up – went out of the window.
And add further, the fact that the weather forecast predicted a scorcher, and before you could say allez les bleus, we knew we needed to think tactics.
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We found a local scout troupe happy to lend a mess tent in return for a donation. And a pal who ran his own comms company turned up with a van containing two of the widest flat screen TVs I’d ever seen. They went up on tall stands at opposite ends, enough fold-down camping seats to accommodate a royal box somehow appeared and the catering arm of the family thought it time to “discuss budgets”.
In the end, it was a decent event. France won, which kept most of our guests happy, and the ice we’d amassed with the help of three neighbouring freezers kept the beer cold in washing up bowls until way after full time.
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These days people tend to be a lot more inventive, not to say organised, and treat such events as a chance to do some serious entertaining. And the trend over the past decade among developers to create inside-and-out living spaces helps no end.
Anna Howell Interiors Editor at Chaplins agrees that it’s all in the detail and using your space well.
“Carving out dedicated party zones will ensure that those who aren’t die-hard fans will have a space to gravitate to if the match takes a turn for the worse,” she says. “Luxury pouffes and beanbags give a laid-back, beach-house vibe that encourages guests to get comfy and have a natter.
“It’s also a great area to wind down in when the guests start dwindling and the beverages have taken hold. Arrange them in a secluded circle on the periphery with a couple of nesting tables for drinks and snacks.
“The right accessories will allow you to be an attentive host without forsaking every goal. Design your space with comfort and accessibility in mind. Bar trolleys are the equivalent of sophisticated self-service. Load them up with ice, spirits and soft drinks to save you trotting back and forth to the kitchen every time someone needs a refill.”
Chaplins, whose showroom is in Hatch End, eight miles from their Frogmore warehouse, have a range of barbecues, including a booster grill from Röshults which harnesses infrasound technology to heat up fully in just six minutes.
Alice North of Farrar & Tanner, the bespoke men’s gift supplier has seen demand for their luxury items rise with the temperatures.
“Get-togethers to watch the World Cup go perfectly with a barbecue in the back garden and now that the sunny weather is here, we’ve seen sales of Tramontina BBQ accessories double compared to the start of the year,” she said.
That’s no surprise. Kettler, whose local outlets include Aylett Nurseries and Norcutts Garden Centre in St Albans, last week published a survey that predicted 12 million people will invite family, friends and neighbours around for an outdoor meal during the tournament.
It also suggested that outdoor dining and entertaining has become the UK’s top summer home activity with three in four households owning some type of outdoor grill.
As for watching the game, there’s no substitute for following my lead and doing it outside. Unless of course you have a kitchen the size of Jamie Vardy’s, the one in which the entire Leicester City squad watched Chelsea hold Spurs to the draw that won his team the Premiership title.
Just make sure the glare from the sun won’t spoil the view. In my case, the tent took care of that. More recently, a friend nabbed a screen from a meeting room at work and streamed the tennis from his laptop using a projector – a full HD one - from Optoma.
Incidentally, on the day of the opening ceremony in Moscow, John Lewis reported a 140 per cent rise in sales of TVs with screens of 55in or larger, compared with the same day last year.
And while my washing-up bowl full of ice worked well secreted in the foliage next to a willow, a mini fridge, such as the 17-litre ones from Drinkstuff selling on Amazon for £85, would have looked more of the part - assuming there’s enough food-grade CO2 around to carbonate drinks by the time the final is played.
With kids around, I used paper plates and plastic glasses, but if I was doing it again I’d at least make the effort of getting themed ones like those that come in £2.49 packs of eight from firms like Berkshire-based Party Pieces.
I asked Jon Holloway, founder of the outdoor product supplier, Garden Trading, if he had any advice with regard to the event itself.
“Include items that look good and perform a job,” he said. “Make a list of themes including drinks, food, lighting and atmosphere and think about what looks good and provides a function to help things run smoothly.”
He also suggested using items that are easily transportable, lest the weather turns, and stringing lighting around trees and on patios to maintain the atmosphere after the sun goes down.
And he added: “Don’t clutter up tables and surfaces too much. Keeping things simple and neat means that your space looks crisp and elegant whilst remaining workable when there’s lots of people around.”
As for mine, fun as it was, it didn’t quite live up to its full potential. Well, certainly not in terms of the guest list. While the Columba’s parents were clearly all football fans, there were three noteable absentees: Leeds United legend David O’Leary, Chelsea’s Russian goalkeeper Dmitri Kharine and Wimbledon hardman Vinnie Jones - who all had sons there.