Capturing the Rhythm of
Downtown Santa Monica
Santa Monica Centric
World Cup crowds provide welcomed infusion of cash, camaraderie

Lisa Powers wishes the FIFA World Cup was held every four months, not every four years.


The global contest pitting soccer's most talented players against one another for a month-long drama with the power to captivate billions was a boon for the Ye Olde King's Head Pub, where Powers serves as the operations manager, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on when a customer's favorite squad fails to perform on the pitch.


Nearly every match drew record crowds for the British-themed restaurant and pub, where bangers and mash and Guinness serve as the perfect breakfast fuel for rooting on one's beloved countrymen. Even better for Powers was England's surprising run to the semi-finals, each extra match during the elimination rounds resulting in another opportunity for the ex-pat to celebrate with her fellow Brits and for the restaurant to rake in a few more pounds.


"It was such a great atmosphere throughout, especially for the England games," Powers said. "We had a tremendous turnout. Everyone had their heart and soul into it. You can imagine we were very, very disappointed."


People line up to get into the Ye Olde King's Head Pub. Photo by Andy Johnstone/Daily Mail

England's World Cup campaign came to a devastating end with Croatia advancing in extra time by a score of 2-1. Croatia eventually fell in the final to France.


Powers' disappointment was softened a bit when she went back and looked at the pub's receipts. She estimated that business was up by over 50 percent. That makes sense when considering all of the extra food and beer she had to order in the days and weeks leading up to the tournament. Profits could have been higher, but it takes money to make money. The pub installed extra TVs, had all staff members working (all are asked not to take vacations during the World Cup), and hired security to deal with the long lines that formed in front of the pub. Some customers arrived an hour or more before a match to ensure they'd get a good seat.


"It's a big operation, to be honest. There's a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure it goes smoothly," she said.


England fans were expected to buy as many as 10 million additional pints of beer in the U.K. during the semi-final match alone, with an estimated boost for the British economy worth as much as $39 million. That could result in nearly $6 million in taxes, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. Consumer spending in pubs surged by a third on the day of England's opening match against Tunisia, according to Barclaycard, which tracks credit card transactions.


The World Cup impact has been felt by other businesses in Downtown Santa Monica, mainly restaurants and those specializing in soccer gear, like Adidas and Nike, even though America's squad failed to qualify. Adidas estimated it sold 10 million tournament balls worldwide, as well as 14.9 million replica jerseys. While those numbers were down compared to 2014, the tournament still provided a nice boost.


In terms of most valuable sports events brands, the FIFA World Cup ranks fourth with $229 million, with the Super Bowl taking top honors, followed by the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics, according to a 2017 Forbes survey. 


At the Britannia Pub, people had to spend at least $20 to keep a seat and watch the matches. The pub opened early, with some games starting at 4 a.m. Same for Cabo Cantina. While not known as a soccer hot spot like the King's Head, which was featured in USA Today and other publications, helping boost attendance, Cabo did see some added interest.  


"We staff a little more. We open earlier and we see a higher head count for sure, but then there are those who just want to come and watch the game and not really buy anything, so that's a bummer," said Wayne Blasingame, manager at Cabo. "But it's definitely worth opening early for those couple of weeks."


Overall, the World Cup isn't going to move the meter in terms of Santa Monica's tax receipts, but every little bit helps. Just ask England. One tap to the left or right could have made all the difference.


In terms of most valuable sports events brands, the FIFA World Cup ranks fourth with $229 million.