What impact will a winter World Cup have on pub trading?

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Christmas trading impact: what impact will a World Cup held in November and December have on the pub industry?
Christmas trading impact: what impact will a World Cup held in November and December have on the pub industry?
FIFA has announced that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place between 21 November and 18 December – a departure from previous tournaments that have been held during the months of May, June and July.

Russian president Vladimir Putin formally passed the torch to Qatar during the 2018 World Cup’s closing ceremony in Moscow on 15 July, before France claimed their second title – and first on foreign soil – with a 4-2 win over first-time finalists Croatia.

The 2022 World Cup marks the first time the tournament will be hosted by a country in the Middle East after Qatar was awarded the tournament in 2010.

The decision to reschedule the tournament was made by FIFA in order to avoid searing summer temperatures in the Gulf state – though Qatar still boasts average temperatures of 24°C in November, and 20°C in December.

Due to the disruption to the domestic football leagues across Europe, the competition will take place over a reduced period of 28 days, as opposed to the 2018 World Cup, which spanned 31 days.

It has been suggested that the 2022-23 Premier League season could kick off in July, and run until June – as opposed to the traditional August kick off and conclusion in May – to accommodate the World Cup, with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore stating that his priority is to keep the Christmas and New Year Premier League schedule intact, with domestic matches mooted to resume as early as Boxing Day.

With the new dates overlapping the Christmas period, a traditionally lucrative one for pubs, The Morning Advertiser​ asked what impact the new dates could have on the industry and pub trading. 

Interesting challenge

Early responses from the industry have varied from cautious optimism to condemnation. 

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “December is already a busy time for pubs, so they will need to be prepared for the festive season alongside the World Cup.

“Breweries and pubs will be well organised, and there is nowhere better to cheer on the home nations and enjoy the World Cup than the great British pub."

Asked what impact the new dates will have, Kris Gumbrell, chief executive officer of Brewhouse & Kitchen, added: “Well it means the players won’t be playing in 40-degree-plus heat!

“It will clearly affect the Premier League by depleting their best English players – not a problem for my business as we don’t subscribe to Sky – but we would show the World Cup games and intersperse them with Christmas parties. That will be an interesting challenge.

“Shame they couldn’t have delayed it till January, that would have been a huge boost.”

Lee Price, manager of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, said:​ “Apart from the obvious danger of football fans being snowed in, the challenge of managing a mixed public and decoration dilemmas, I think pubs, especially those that are wet-led, or perhaps lack the capability of hosting traditional Christmas party celebrations, will benefit from a decent shot in the arm.

“Typically, November can be a bit of a tough month, so an early start to the festive funny business could see December 2022 being a cracker.”

Chief executive of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, added: “It is probably too early to forecast the impact on pubs showing the football in a winter World Cup.

"We will not enjoy the combination of football and warm weather, as we did this year, but that does not necessarily mean it will deter football fans from watching games in the pub.

"Qatar is in a time zone just three hours ahead of the UK, so the disruption on that front should be fairly minimal. Football fans still watch club football in the pub throughout the winter in large numbers, so it is unlikely that many will be fazed by venturing out in cold weather.

"Although we won’t have football throughout the summer in 2022, the domestic league will have to be lengthened to accommodate the winter break, so there should be an opportunity for pubs to show football longer into the spring."

Christmas clash

Philip Cutter, from the Gardeners Arms in Norwich, known locally as the Murderers, commented: “I really don't think it will benefit trade for us at all.

“I feel that Qatar 2022 will bring people in, but during a period when most pubs will already see an upturn in trade due to the lead up to Christmas.

“For us, to maximise space, we 'blocked out' bookings for our function room in advance of this year’s World Cup. Fortunately, England progressed, and the fact that the room was used to its potential and capacity was advantageous. However, to book the space out in the lead up to Christmas and (God forbid) England have a tournament like 2014 when they didn't progress through the group stage, could be disastrous for some pubs.

“We can only hope that the games fall in trading periods that would normally be quiet for the trade. Unfortunately, having a World Cup semi-final, 10 days before Christmas, doesn't benefit the industry in my belief but, like the stalwarts we are, the publicans of the UK will make it work!

“The only real benefit for us here at the Gardeners/Murderers, would be if the Premier League was 'rested' for a month for a winter break during the period of the World Cup and then the Premier League season was extended by a month or six weeks in June 2023. This would, then give us the month of football that would 'in theory' be lost.”

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