21 June 2006

The Web
Business Today

Bar owners pray for England victory

Karl Schembri

The World Cup is proving to be bad for most of the bars and restaurants around the island as many people are opting to watch the games at home while only England is drawing out the crowds.
Isabelle Debattista of Mirabelle Restaurant in Bugibba square says it’s only Maltese supporters of England and British tourists who are generating some business.
“There’s not much really going on, not even when the Italians are playing,” she said in an obvious reference to the thousands of Italy’s supporters among the Maltese.
“It’s only in games like tonight’s when England is playing that everyone here gets extra staff as British tourists fill up our establishment and Maltese supporters join them, that’s why we hope England make it to the finals. Everyone hopes the British team remains in the competition.”
Debattista said everyone felt they had to install big screens and projectors in their bars and restaurants although only a few will be seeing a return.
“With no screens, you will have no patrons, but then it doesn’t mean that you will see a return either,” she said.
Further out of the Bugibba centre, Godwin Cutajar, the owner of Beach Haven and president of the Bugibba shop owners’ association, said the World Cup actually brought a decline in his business.

“Besides those bars that are renowned for showing sports games, very few others are managing to attract football fans,” Cutajar said. “We’re actually very badly hit. Overall business is on the low side and we’re worse still in the World Cup. I know one bar owner who invested in five plasma screens of over Lm1,000 each and he’s literally banging his head against the wall.”
The same holds true in Marsaskala, where only English supporters are bringing business to some of the pubs that are popular among football fans.
“This World Cup has had a negative impact on business,” said Reuben Buttigieg, the president of the Marsaskala shop owners’ association. “People have shifted from restaurants to their homes and some pubs to watch the games. England’s fans are flocking to bars whenever England is playing, but otherwise business is down. Italy’s supporters for example consume almost nothing compared to England’s. They tend to watch the games in groups at home rather than in some bar or restaurant.”
The GRTU’s director president of the leisure section, Philip Fenech, said virtually all bars and leisure establishments felt they had to set up big screens and television sets so their customers could follow the games, but in many cases they will hardly see any return.
“Establishments in the top league are the worst hit, as the crowds are choosing bars and corner pubs to view the games, or even staying at home,” Fenech said.
“On the other hand, takeaways and home deliveries saw some improvement.”
Fenech said a win for England seems to make the most business sense for the leisure industry.
All in all however, Fenech says that independently of the World Cup, business was as bad as last month’s.
“Business is supposed to be better now because of summer, but this is clearly not the case with tourism on the low side.”
According to a study on soccer and the economy endorsed by the World Bank drawn up by ABN AMRO Economics Department, a victory for Italy would make the best economic sense.
“An Italian World Cup victory would make a contribution to an economic upswing in Europe which would help to reduce the imbalances in the world economy,” the report says.
But for the majority of respondents in MaltaToday’s June survey, Brazil are in the run for their sixth world cup title, emerging as the ‘third party’ in the Maltese football world with 9 per cent of respondents regarding the star Hispanic-Afro-American team as their favourite.
Overall England’s fans outnumber Italy’s fans by more than three points, but Italy is by far the favourite team among the 18-34 age bracket. Among the youngest age bracket, while 46 per cent support Italy, only 24 per cent support England. The situation is completely reversed among those aged over 35.
Not surprisingly, this time round England’s supporters are more optimistic of winning the world cup than their pro-Italian rivals – 25 per cent of England’s supporters think that their team is set to win its second title since 1966 when they had beaten Germany at Wembley stadium.
Over the years Germany has also retained its niche of supporters in Malta with five per cent supporting the central European giants.

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