The tabloids are screaming, grown men are crying, and people up and down the country are combing their family tree for a whiff of foreign ancestry to deliver them from sporting failure. You guessed it. England are out of the World Cup. Again.
However, unlike the prospect of England lifting the World Cup before a baying Moscow crowd on 15 July, an early flight home for England boss Gareth Southgate and co won’t be the end of the world. At least not for the pub trade.
MatchPint co-founder Dom Collingwood highlights that, now more than ever, there’s a sense of inevitability around a short-lived World Cup campaign: “Talking to operators, there’s a lot more thought and consideration going into what do we do ‘when’ England go out, rather than ‘if’.”
A guide to picking your pub’s second team
Whether there’s a post-Spygate decision to pull England out of Russia 2018 or the Three Lions go anyway and come up short – at some point this summer you’re going to be chucking your support behind one of the 31 other countries at Russia 2018.
But who do you pick?
Follow a local hero – let’s say, for argument’s sake, the majority of your punters are Liverpool fans and can’t get enough of Egyptian forward Mo Salah. Once England bow out, why not shape your screenings around following Egypt’s progress? Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium; Tottenham: Christian Eriksen of Denmark; and so on.
Look at your local community – check out the area surrounding your pub and work out which competing nations are best represented in your local community. The Famous Three Kings in west London, for example, regularly throws its weight behind Spain and France at major tournaments because of local demographics and the chance to drag in extra footfall.
Gun for an underdog – it was bitter-sweet because they inflicted possibly the most humiliating defeat in the history of the English national team to dump them out of
Euro 2016, but how much fun was jumping on the Icelandic bandwagon two years ago in France?
Paul Eastwood, the landlord behind two-time Great British Pub Awards’ Best Sports Pub winner, the Famous Three Kings, argues that a pub’s best preparation for England’s customary early flight home is to get passionate about as many teams and fixtures as possible from the tournament’s outset.
“We make sure we make a big thing from the start of the tournament for all the teams. You can’t just expect to not give others any priority and then, when England go out, for customers to come in.”
Lee Price of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, Wales, acknowledges that incentives and inclusivity are key to sustaining World Cup footfall in a nation without a team to back.
“What we’ll do, in the same way as we did with the Six Nations, is incentivise customers with an accumulator card – if they buy five drinks, they get one free.
“What we find then is we’re giving them added value so there’s an incentive for them to choose our venue rather than another. If you can hook them on the first game, you can keep that interest going throughout.”
The need for inclusivity and for pubs simply not to down tools after an English exit from Russia this summer is combined in Cafe Football’s approach to major tournaments.
The Stratford, east London, site plans Q&A sessions with footballing personalities around non-England fixtures, incentivises punters to visit with chances to win signed merchandise, football bingo, sweepstakes and first scorer prizes.
The venue focuses on making noise around non-England games, believing the Three Lions fixtures will take care of themselves. Now there’s a thought...
How much money is there in a World Cup without England?
While England’s group games in Euro 2016 delivered more than £1,900 incremental sales on average, fixtures with no home nation delivered between £50 and £275 additional sales, according to MatchPint.
Let’s say England finish as one of two Group G qualifiers. Depending on their final position, they’ll play one of two qualifiers from Group H – Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan – in the first knockout round.
Let’s go mental and say they sneak through against, frankly, beatable opposition and reach the quarter finals before catching the traditional early flight home.
England will have played five games at Russia 2018 meaning that there will be 59 games this summer not involving England.
If, based on MatchPint numbers, a pub takes on average £275 incremental sales from each of the 59 non-England matches, it will rake in just over £16,000 in five weeks.