Nation to grind to a standstill as millions tune in to England match

Football Fans watching the Columbia v England World Cup game from the Spartak Stadium in Russia on the large screen in Millennium Square, Leeds, celebrate.'3 July 2018.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Football Fans watching the Columbia v England World Cup game from the Spartak Stadium in Russia on the large screen in Millennium Square, Leeds, celebrate.'3 July 2018. Picture Bruce Rollinson

it is the first time that England has reached the World Cup quarter finals in more than a decade - and today millions will watch the football squad take on Sweden in the hope of moving one step closer to the final.

As the 3pm kick-off draws closer, the country is expected to grind to a standstill as the nation tunes in to see if the team will make it through to the semis, something England has not achieved since 1990.

Pubs and bars are expected to be packed to the brim as Gareth Southgate’s side play to stay in the competition.

But shopping streets could be abandoned, and organisers have changed the timings of other sporting events, festivals and gigs to avoid clashing with the highly-anticipated match.

In York, the Spark collection of food, drink and retail outlets was expecting such a high turn out that it ticketed access to the site, to keep crowd numbers at a safe limit.

And in Leeds, bar The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes is anticipating a jam-packed day of trade.

Nicole Banks, the assistant general manager, said: “The phone has been going crazy since Tuesday with people trying to book tables. We’re confident the atmosphere will be second to none. It’s great to see everyone coming together and celebrating England’s success. Let’s hope they can take it all the way.”

London’s Oxford Street - one of the world’s most famous shopping destinations - is expected to be quieter than it typically would be on a Saturday afternoon, as people stay at home or gather in bars to watch the match.

Paul Barnes, director of external affairs at the New West End Company, said: “There’s no question that the World cup itself has been great for retailing.

“There’s been a big boost for retailers. There’s a feel-good factor generally, the weather’s good, the football’s making everyone feel good - they’re buying barbecues, they’re buying football strips, they’re buying big TVs.

“So there’s been a boost because of that. On the issue of the actual day, then of course a lot of people stay in and watch the match so we probably expect there to be fewer people around in the West End shopping.”

Closer to home, Dan Wharton, Marketing Manager at Trinity Leeds shopping centre said shoppers had still been paying a visit during the football fever.

He said: “We’ve installed a super-sized screen at Trinity Kitchen showing all the big games to make sure shoppers and diners don’t miss any of the World Cup action.

“It’s proved a big draw, as has our World Cup offer where diners get a free beer for every goal England scores.”

International consumer company Kantar Worldpanel predicted earlier in the week that the game could generate £860 million of grocery sales yesterday and today, as people stocked up on barbecue food and alcohol for the sunny match weekend.

A number of village and school fetes across the country, as well as festivals and cricket games, have made changes to schedules to accommodate the game. And some events have announced that the match will be streamed, meaning that football is likely to be the focus for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, a kebab shop worker has become a hit with football fans for bearing a resemblance to Premier League star Mohamed Salah.

Erik Tekelyan, 20, works 24-hour shifts in the Oazis restaurant in Samara, Russia which has been busy with supporters who have flooded into the city for the World Cup.

He said he was not aware of the Egypt and Liverpool star until he was told of his likeness, but is delighted with the comparison. And he backed England to win the tournament. “I hope the best one wins,” he said. “I always say who’s the best, but I’ll be honest, either England or Belgium.”