I’m sitting in the Swansea taproom that I own, looking at all the hopeful faces. There’s a good chance Wales will get through to the round of 16, and the expectant faces show it.
For a moment, it feels like a typical pub pre-Covid. The beers are flowing, the excited chatter is bubbling away, and the match day fever is tangible – it almost feels like normality is back.
As I look around, I calculate for the thousandth time since reopening the ‘new’ indoor capacity – 24 people, adhering to two-metre social distancing as per the Welsh guidelines – and I’m reminded of reality. That is, the stark reality that with the restrictions still in place and the significant limit on the number of people I can allow in to watch the Euros games, the revenue potential of what should have been a massive opportunity is severely hampered.
I could have filled the bar four times over, hearing the tills ringing four-fold. Instead because of social distancing, no standing, and the rule of six, sadly 24 it is.
Sport has always been a massive footfall driver for pubs with major events such as the UEFA European Championship being particularly lucrative. However, the opportunity here has been totally missed.
The best way to describe it as a bar operator is all the gut-wrenching disappointment and regret that comes with unfulfilled potential.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) estimated pub beer sales during the England v Scotland match were almost 850,000 pints lower than if the game had been shown without restrictions. This, the trade association says, will have resulted in a loss of revenue to pubs in England and Scotland of £3.2m on that Friday alone, an amount which would have been vital to the sector’s recovery.
The desperately needed boost to hospitality, which the Euros promised then, has been severely reduced by the ongoing restrictions.
In the build up to the Euros, I was frantically trying to think of more ways to increase capacity and utilise this national sporting fixture for what it should have been worth.
Can we squeeze in some extra tables and still abide by the guidelines? Not without facing the potential wrath of licencing. Can we get some screens up outside? Not without significant additional cost and then of course there are no guarantees with the weather.
The fact is that Covid guidelines have made it nigh on impossible to profit as we should have done from the Euros as a sector, and there’s no way around it whilst these restrictions are intact.
‘Something feels off’
Setting aside for a moment the devastating financial impact, a survey of 1,000 pubgoers by the BBPA found 85% of pub-going football fans believe the current restrictions will negatively impact their experience of watching UEFA Euro 2020 at the pub this summer.
Half said they would be more likely to watch UEFA Euro 2020 at the pub if all restrictions on pubs are lifted, despite 91% of football fans saying they missed watching matches at the pub during lockdown.
Again, looking around my own taproom during Wales v Italy, I have to admit that the match day buzz is just not the same.
Gone are the throngs of people standing between tables, hustled together in excitement. The raucous revelry is replaced by an altogether more sobering – quite literally – and less lively murmur of voices.
As for breaking into song which is often the Welsh way, the chances of that are zero to none; it just seems far too awkward amongst such low numbers. It’s as if the electricity is just not fully dialled up or the room hasn’t been put on charge. Something feels off.
After the year we’ve all had locked-down and the massive toll this has taken on mental health across the nation, it seems nothing short of a shame that this opportunity was missed.
A national sporting occasion such as the Euros could have been the golden chance to bring everyone back together, put isolation behind us and lift spirits once and for all. We deserved that.
But on we continue with the strangle-hold of restrictions still in place, doing the best we can.
One thing that isn’t disappointing us with unfulfilled potential though is Wales’ performance and as I finish up, they’ve just made it into the last 16. As a Welsh girl, this gives me something very big to smile about!