Gunners make extra time for fan favourite the Tolly

Club promotes matchday pub as it helps businesses’ lockdown recovery

Friday, 17th September 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Tollington publican Martin Whelan and wife Louise IMG_6052

Tollington publican Martin Whelan and wife Louise

A MUCH-LOVED boozer in Hornsey Road has been given a welcome advertising kick from Arsenal.

The Tollington Arms saw its name put on pitchside hoardings for the Gunners’ match against Norwich on Sunday and the club have filmed an advert promoting the pub with defender Rob Holding ordering a drink at the bar.

The clip has already been viewed more than two million times.

It is part of Arsenal’s attempts to give local businesses a lift as they try to recover from the Covid crisis and the disruption of lockdowns.

Tollington publican Martin Whelan said: “It just went absolutely ballistic! It was brilliant for business. We are really chuffed. A massive team like Arsenal supporting a local business like us is unheard of. What they have done for us is immense.”

He added: “It’s not just solely the Tollington, every business has struggled throughout the pandemic, so we were trying to drum up as much interest, trying to make the awareness that we are back open for business and try and get back to some form of normality.”

Arsenal star Rob Holding in the promotional advert

The hook of the Tollington promotion is that it is part of an essential matchday experience now supporters have returned to their seats at the Emirates.

Mr Whelan, his wife Louise and their daughter were also invited to the directors’ lounge at the Emirates Stadium for the win against Norwich.

“Me and Louise had never been out of the pub, the two of us, on a matchday for 15 years,” he said. “We had such a great day. I felt very much at home. They gave us a fantastic day and to put the icing on the cake they presented us with our own personal programmes.”

The family were surprised to find a full-page interview in the matchday programme and advertising billboards in the stadium throughout the match and at half-time.

Mr Whelan said: “We are completely overwhelmed and it is very humbling to see an institution like Arsenal, even though we have been alongside them from day one, to get the recognition from them.

“It’s unbelievable – unbelievable is an understatement. What they have done for us and my family I shall be indebted for the rest of my life to AFC.”

The pub has previously played host to several book launches before the pandemic, including former players Ian Wright and Alan Smith – and has now been invited to host more.

Mr Whelan said MP Jeremy Corbyn had also supported the pub, adding: “He has been very instrumental in terms of any help that we could get from the government for local businesses. He came over to see us last Friday when the film was released and we watched it all explode on social media. I had prepared vegetarian sandwiches ready for him and he cycled over.”

Mr Corbyn said: “We must keep campaigning for the future of other pubs, cafés and restaurants in Islington who have all been hit so hard by the pandemic.

“The Tollington Arms is a much-loved institution in Islington, especially for Arsenal supporters on matchday, and has a cultural value for the community and others who visit the area, so I have been keen to do all I can to help its campaign to survive after the pandemic.”

He added: “As well as being beneficial in increasing revenue for the borough, especially during football games, the Tollington has enormous support and affection from many people in the community, including myself, Arsenal and many across the country. I was very pleased to learn that it’s now been listed as an Asset of Community Value and look forward to visiting soon.”

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham said: “Many local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and we wanted to find a way to shine a light on them and showcase the brilliant services they offer. The Tollington has been an essential part of the matchday ritual for our fans for many years.”

He added: “It’s so important the Arsenal family sticks together through thick and thin, and it’s been brilliant to see the response from Martin and Lou at The Tolly. This is their moment – it’s about them, the pub, the area, and our supporters who love to visit the pub, whether they live around the corner or come from overseas.

“We have plans to support other local business soon, so we’re excited to see those come to life.”

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