Gallery owner turned licensee puts women in the picture at her Suffolk pub

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

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

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

The move shows Michelle’s strong belief in the importance of women’s sport. It has also helped her attract new customers to her sports-led freehouse with players and supporters regularly visiting.

She explains: “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 a 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 Ladies she screens a wide range of sport including the FA Women’s Super League.

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 Sport Manager of the Month trophy from England and Reading midfielder Fara Williams.

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

Bruce Cuthbert, director of commercial customers for 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 is a shining example of 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.

For further information visit www.btsportbusiness.com