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Food venues surprised by strong turnouts for World Cup screenings

One week after the tournament started, initial concerns about poor turnout due to early morning kick-offs have quickly subsided.

SINGAPORE: The number of subscriptions so far to SingTel’s corporate package for the ongoing World Cup may not be as many compared with the previous edition of the tournament in 2010, but food establishments that have signed up have been pleasantly surprised with the crowd turnout for the matches.

One week after the tournament started with hosts Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 on Friday, initial concerns about poor turnout due to early morning kick-offs have quickly subsided, with encouraging numbers of football fans turning up. Some establishments are even quietly confident of making a small profit.

Muddy Murphy’s pub at Somerset, which is spending about S$20,000 to screen the matches live, is extending its operating hours during the World Cup period, closing its doors at 6am instead of 1am and 2am on a regular weekday and weekend respectively.

“We may be as successful in terms of attracting crowd and revenue as (during) previous editions of the World Cup, and hope to make S$100,000 after covering costs,” said general manager Mark Walsh. “Many venues will not be screening the World Cup because of its poor timings, but people will head to pubs anyway and will now congregate at just a few places, including ours.”

With Brazil 11 hours behind Singapore, the group matches start at 12am, 3am, 6am and, on certain days, 4am and 9am.

Prices for SingTel’s World Cup corporate packages for commercial premises have remained the same as four years ago, at S$2,888 for a standard screen (S$1,888 for each subsequent screen) and S$4,888 for a screen of more than 50 inches (S$2,888 for each subsequent screen).

SingTel has declined to reveal how many have signed up, but said the kick-off times this year were a big reason for the slower take-up. But like Muddy Murphy’s, businesses that have subscribed have seen encouraging turnouts.

At Spize, a coffee shop in Simpang Bedok that has two 45-inch television screens to show the games, an additional 30 tables and 120 chairs were needed to cope during the match between Germany and Portugal yesterday morning.

“That was the largest crowd we have seen so far for this year’s World Cup. It took us by surprise,” said Spize’s business development manager Wira Julianto, who had seen only 50 customers for the opening match last Friday. “For the match between England and Italy (which started at 6am), it was also a full house for us. But it is still too early to say if we can match the revenue earned in 2010.”

St James’ Holdings, which operates several clubs and food outlets here, is investing S$50,000 – which will go to paying for overhead charges such as utilities and staff overtime wages – to show the matches at six of its 11 outlets, as a goodwill gesture to customers. Initially looking at only breaking even, the company now hopes to make a small profit of S$10,000, said Mr Gordon Foo, coordinating director of operations.

At Food Republic Beer Garden @ St James, there has been an average of 150 people on a weekday and between 400 and 500 people on a weekend during this year’s World Cup. Although these numbers do not compare with those during the 2010 World Cup – matches then started at 6pm and 8pm due to the six-hour time difference here with hosts South Africa – Mr Foo still did not expect the strong response.

“I underestimated the fervency of football fans in Singapore,” he said. “It seems people will still get out of their beds to enjoy this sporting event.”

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