Midnight Sun Wesley Case covers the city's after-hours scene

Football vs. football: Baltimore-area soccer bars ready to accommodate Ravens fans during early London game

Normally, a weekend morning at the British-style pub Union Jack’s in Columbia draws many singing soccer fans, eager to cheer on their respective European clubs. But with the Ravens playing in London on Sunday morning, Union Jack’s expects a crowd of purple-wearing enthusiasts of the other kind of football.

“The Ravens still outdraw soccer in this area,” said manager Gary Ouellette.

Had there been a U.S. or England World Cup match scheduled at the same time, however, it’d be a different story.

“World Cup certainly would take priority — that’s the biggest drawing event that we have,” Ouellette said. “The only thing that would compare to that is a Ravens playoff game. The World Cup would certainly outdraw a regular-season Ravens game.”

The decision for Sunday is much easier, even for local soccer bars like Union Jack’s, Slainte Irish Pub & Restaurant in Fells Point and Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill. Most of their TVs will be tuned to see Joe Flacco and the Ravens against Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m., though they will accommodate fans looking to watch soccer, according to staff members.

Notable televised soccer matches scheduled during the Ravens/Jaguars’ 9:30 a.m. game include Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Newcastle United (English Premier League), Hannover 96 vs. FC Köln (Bundesliga), Inter vs. Genoa (Serie A) and Getafe vs. Villarreal (La Liga).

The matches lack the type of top-flight star power — no Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, nor any games for popular powerhouses like Manchester United or Paris Saint-Germain — that might result in a scheduling conflict otherwise.

“None of the soccer games are too, too big during that time, so it should open up a lot of TVs for the Ravens game,” said Dena Glisan, director of marketing for Slainte.

Open since 2004, Slainte has earned its reputation as a soccer bar, opening at 7 a.m. each day so fans can have breakfast as they watch a match occurring thousands of miles away. For that reason, Glisan expects a mix of NFL fans and soccer fans on Sunday.

“A lot of places are opening up earlier just due to this game, but since we’re known as an earlier bar, I have a feeling a lot of people will go here just knowing we’re open,” she said.

Slainte is the home bar for a number of supporter clubs like Baltimore Blue Moon (Manchester City fans), Baltimore Toffees (Everton) and Charm City Blues (Chelsea), among others. If a more significant match had been scheduled during the Ravens’ game, Glisan said it would be an easy decision as to what takes priority.

“We’re definitely 100 percent a soccer bar first,” she said.

Speaking generally, Glisan and Ouellette agreed there are noticeable differences between NFL and soccer fan bases, which can affect the atmosphere at the bar.

“There’s a lot of songs. There’s certainly a lot more audience participation. … It’s very contagious,” Ouellette said of soccer fans. “Football is quieter up until the big plays and all that, whereas soccer is interactive throughout the whole match.”

Ouellette said he’s expecting a big crowd for the football game, but wasn’t completely sure what to expect since it was Union Jack’s first time opening early in the morning for a Ravens game.

“We don’t have a history to base it on,” he said, “so it’ll be interesting to see who gets up.”

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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