A shot in the arm: pubs to sell 15m pints when England play Senegal

<span>Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

A nation will hold its breath on Sunday as England play Senegal in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Qatar, and nowhere more so than in the country’s pubs.

An industry that has been battered by a toxic cocktail of rocketing energy bills, food inflation, staff shortages, rising wages and rail strikes is pinning its hopes on progress for England in the tournament providing a much-needed boost.

The British Beer and Pub Association says 15m pints will be downed in the nation’s pubs when the Three Lions take on the Lions of Teranga on Sunday, delivering a £22m shot in the arm to an industry that supports almost 940,000 jobs.

Figures so far are encouraging. Early sales data from UKHospitality reveals an 11% increase in food and drink sales in pubs, compared with a normal week in 2019, during the first week of the World Cup.

Spending at pubs, bars and clubs increased by 20.5% on Tuesday when England played Wales, compared with the same day in 2021, data from Barclaycard Payments shows. Sales in restaurants rose by 13.9%.

An estimated 9.2m pints were sold across the UK, with the average pub serving 300, up 136 on a typical Tuesday, according to data from the Oxford Partnership.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the pubs trade body, said: “Pubs were hoping for a boost to business during this World Cup, and so far the beer has been flowing and fans have been showing up to cheer on England.

“The tournament has been filling up pubs on days that otherwise might be quieter, and we’re hoping that trend continues in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s been a tough year for our industry and we know people are feeling the pinch, but we’re really hoping fans continue to turn out to support two great British institutions by toasting to the Three Lions at their local pub.”

Rob Star, who opened the Star of Bethnal Green in east London in 2007 and now owns eight establishments in the capital, said sales on England match days had more than doubled.

“We have seen an increase in trade, but for us it’s a bit disappointing the tournament is in winter as November and December are already our busiest months even without the tournament as it is a prime time for people going out and having Christmas parties,” he said. “When the World Cup is in the summer months, we see a really significant increase in trade.”

Despite a busy November and a World Cup sales boost, Star is concerned about what happens in January. “The biggest issue heading into the new year is how much money our customers have. They will have spent a lot of money over Christmas and then will have big credit card bills.”

Despite the flurry, spending in hospitality is expected to be down 10% compared with the World Cup in 2018 and down 52% compared with Euro 2021, figures from VoucherCodes predict.

Publican Daniel Grayson owns three bars in Sheffield called Sport Shack, and said takings were up by around 20%, but was also critical of the scheduling of the tournament in winter.

“The trade is good, but it’s not pulling up any trees at the moment – it’s too early in the tournament – but this week should be good, and if England get past Senegal then the next match in the quarter-finals should be phenomenal,” he said.

Grayson, who has been in the industry for 31 years, said people were more liable to stay in at the moment because of the cold weather and take advantage of cheap alcohol from supermarkets.

But he added that the Three Lions progressing in the tournament could be a significant boon to the wider economy.

“The England team needs to get as far as possible, and that will be a massive boost for the hospitality industry, but also everything else in the wider economy. Everything has been such doom and gloom the last few years,” he said.

If England were to crash out of the tournament this weekend, the economic benefit for the industry would be short-lived, he said, and the first month of 2023 would be a problem for hospitality.

“January is a quiet month anyway, but with the cost of living crisis, people will have maxed out their credit cards and have no money in the new year. It will be time to batten down the hatches for the public and many pubs.”