England qualifying for Finals means a billion-pound turnover for British economy

LONDON: England’s qualification for the 2010 World Cup could mean a billion-pound boost for the British economy, as fans stock up on food, souvenirs and new TVs to watch the team in South Africa, analysts say.

The 5-1 thumping of Croatia on Wednesday did more than guarantee that John Terry and his team-mates will be at football’s showpiece event next year – it meant shopkeepers can look forward to bumped-up takings too.

The British Retail Consortium believes the “World Cup effect” from the last championships in Germany in 2006 was worth £1.25bil (US$2.1bil) to the British economy.

While England have not won the trophy since 1966, optimism and a surge of patriotism should ensure a welcome period of prosperity for retailers in a country which will probably still be emerging from recession.

Richard Dodd, the consortium’s spokesman, said: “In 2006, people bought food and drink to consume while they were watching the matches and they bought flatscreen TVs to see the action.

“We also saw high sales of replica England kits and a range of souvenir items, everything from flags for cars to St. George’s flag toilet seats,” he told AFP.

“So there will certainly be a real boost to retail spending this time as well, although of course we are living in different economic times than we were in 2006.”

World Cup fever is expected to be all the greater because England missed out on qualification for last year’s European Championships, a failure which is believed to have cost the British economy hundreds of millions of pounds.

While the majority of fans will watch the games at home – British TV audiences are expected to reach 17 million per match – thousands more will crowd into pubs and bars to watch on big screens during the June 11-July 11 tournament.

That is good news for British pubs, which have been closing at the rate of 52 a week as drinking habits change.

Mark Hastings, director of communications at the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “There will have been hundreds of publicans jumping up and down with glee when they saw those goals going in (on Wednesday).

“It has been a very tough time for pubs and brewers and the England team’s success means we can look forward to next year.”

He told the Times newspaper: “We estimate in 2006 that pubs and clubs took an extra £124mil every week that England was in the tournament.

“That figure seems certain to be even bigger next year, but we just want the England team to stay in as long as possible.”

Analysts admit that while there will be millions of pounds spent in the run-up to the tournament and while England are involved, the tills will stop ringing if the team crashes out.

The furthest England have got in a recent World Cup is the semi-finals in 1990. In Germany three years ago, they went out at the quarter-final stage.

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