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Scottish pubs expected to be busy for England World Cup ties

PUB chain JD Wetherspoon has said it expects its pubs in Scotland to be as busy as those in England during the football World Cup as people turn out to cheer for whoever is playing against the Auld Enemy.

Wetherspoons first introduced televisions into a number of its pubs ahead of the 2004 European Championship.

Chief executive John Hutson said: "Customers in Scotland are clearly very keen on football."

He said of recent football ­tournaments: "We get quite a good turnout for people wanting to watch whoever is playing England."

He said that south of the Border demand in its pubs rises when England plays but tends to be lower than normal during the rest of the tournament. In Scotland interest is more evenly spread across a number of fixtures.

"The World Cup is well followed in Scotland, perhaps more broadly than in our other pubs," he said.

"But definitely we (England) are not the team that people want to do well."

Wetherspoons anticipates the World Cup having a broadly neutral impact on sales this summer, having suffered falls in past years before it installed screens in its pubs.

Mr Hutson said: "Wetherspoons is not a destination sports chain and will not become one overnight. We have found that by making the matches available to our customers, we have ended up broadly neutral."

He added: "We do not expect England to win it. But if they did, we would do quite well."

Wetherspoons performed slightly better than the City expected in the first half of its financial year to January 26. Revenue was up 9.1% to £683.2 million, while underlying pre-tax profit was ahead 8.5% at £37.8m.

Taking into account exceptional items of £1.8m relating to a legal case, earnings were up 3.2% at £36m.

The group opened 19 new pubs in the period to take its estate to 905 with a total of 40 to 50 outlets expected to open over the full year.

It has 64 pubs in Scotland with six more due to open by July in Alloa, Broughty Ferry, Dumbarton, Stirling, Peebles and Fraserburgh.

Wetherspoons has further sites earmarked in locations including Hamilton, East Kilbride, Largs, and Irvine.

Mr Hutson played down the potential impact on Scottish independence on the chain.

"When it comes to running pubs in Scotland, they have been pretty independent from the get-go."

He said that menus and drinks ranges already differ in Scotland to elsewhere in the chain.

"Whether they are part of the UK or not, I do no think that changes the appeal of a Wetherspoon pub," Mr Hutson said.

The chain plans to open its first two outlets in Ireland in July. Mr Hutson believes the company could build a chain as large as the one it has in Scotland, across the Republic and Northern Ireland.

It said its first service station pub in Buckinghamshire has been trading well with two-thirds of sales in food and "10% to 20%" alcoholic drinks. The pub attracts large numbers of coach parties, Mr Hutson said.

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