Britain’s ghost towns: Streets are deserted across the country as millions watch England v Wales

  • Jubilant workers made swift exits from offices to head straight to the pub tonight
  • Roads in London and Birmingham deserted as the match got underway at 7pm
  • Instead, supporters were inside and glued to TV screens watching the match 
  • Fans were rewarded with two goals from Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden’s finish

Streets across the UK’s city centres are empty as millions of football fans pack out pubs and sofas as England take on Wales in a crunch World Cup game.

Jubilant workers made swift exits from the office, with many heading straight to the pub to watch the Battle of Britain.

Roads in London and Birmingham were deserted as the match got underway at 7pm.

Fans were initially rewarded with a dull first half, before Marcus Rashford’s stunning free kick and Phil Foden’s close-range finish gave England a two-goal lead shortly after the break. Rashford then got his second and his country’s third.

An empty street in Birmingham city centre tonight as the match got underway between England and Wales

London’s West End was particularly quiet, with millions of fans instead inside guled to television screens

Jubilant workers made swift exits from the office, with many heading straight to the pub to watch the Battle of Britain

England and Wales packed the pubs to watch the huge World Cup encounter this evening

Another deserted street in Birmingham city centre, where people were inside pubs and on sofas

An empty street in the middle of Birmingham this evening

An empty street in Croydon, south London, as millions packed pubs and sat on sofas to watch the game

Streets and shops in London’s West End were much quieter than usual as the match got underway 

World Cup has been a huge boost for venues, says pub boss 

The boss of pub chain Fuller’s said the World Cup has been a huge boost for venues since it began on November 20, after a difficult couple of years for the hospitality sector due to Covid.

Chief executive Simon Emeny told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘It’s going to be the biggest of the three group matches, a Home Nations fixture with a lot hanging on it.

‘We as a company and a sector will be crossing everything for an English victory because they will then play a last 16 game on Sunday at 7pm which will be great for pubs, so we’d get a great day and an even better day on Sunday.

‘It’s very much additional bookings [that the World Cup has produced] – for the first match last Monday, takings ranged from up 30%-40%.

‘There’s no better place to watch an English victory or performance than in a pub with your friends and family and colleagues, it’s a much more enjoyable experience than watching it at home.

It doesn’t displace [Christmas bookings], it’s incremental, which is why we need England – or Wales – to get as far as possible for the sector when we’ve had a difficult two or three years, so we’ll be crossing everything for an England win at Fuller’s today.’

Earlier today, generous bosses allowed staff to be flexible in the hours running up to the much-anticipated clash in Qatar, with some even offering to provide a £25 bar tab for drinks and food, and paracetamol for the inevitable sore heads tomorrow morning.

England fans were in dreamland as two goals in the space of two minutes transformed the mood.

Design manager Glenn Cook,30, said: ‘Who know what is possible. They have got a good squad, they are going to win the group and we could easily stumble into the semi-final and then anything is possible.

‘Maybe we will be swept away by a higher quality team but this World Cup has showed that there are no certainties.’

His friend, Scott Rutter, 41, a quantity surveyor, said: ‘The more we get into this World Cup, the more the excitement builds. The group stages have flashed by and we’re going through.

‘Based on our previous displays I wasn’t that hopeful but they are a half decent side and after the Euros we expect a lot.

‘I would like to think we’d beat Senegal and perhaps they will build on that and just get better.’

Water treatment salesman Neil Townend, 53, admitted his loyalites were split.

‘I have lived in Wales for 30 years now,’ he said. ‘I have a Welsh wife and two children who will be supporting Wales but that’s not why I’ve come to Birmingham. I’m working here.

‘Ideally this would end 1-0 to Wales and both teams would qualify but given Wales have hardly got into the England half this seems most unlikely.

‘I think England will make it into the quarters or semis but they have got to up their game if they are going to be proper contenders.’

Jubilant workers made swift exits from the office, with many heading straight to the pub to watch the Battle of Britain 

Saint George’s Cross flags on display at the Kirby Estate, Bermondsey, South East London ahead of England vs Wales World Cup match

Saint George’s Cross flags on display at the Kirby Estate, Bermondsey, South East London ahead of England vs Wales World Cup match

Saint George’s Cross flags on display at the Kirby Estate, Bermondsey, South East London ahead of England vs Wales World Cup match

Saint George’s Cross flags on display at the Kirby Estate, Bermondsey, South East London ahead of England vs Wales World Cup match

Saint George’s Cross flags on display at the Kirby Estate, Bermondsey, South East London ahead of England vs Wales World Cup match

Welsh pub’s U-turn on England fans 

O’Neill’s, a popular pub near Cardiff railway station in the city centre, had said this morning they were banning English supporters from entering as they wanted to create a ‘safe atmosphere’ for Wales fans.

But the venue, which has giant screens up for the World Cup match and has shown all previous Three Lions matches, has since performed a U-turn after a storm of protest.

The pub chain announced: ‘We have made the decision to welcome both Wales and England football fans to watch the exciting World Cup 2022 tie this evening. 

‘As always, we will have security in place to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy the football.’

 

 Elsewhere, earlier today O’Neill’s, a popular pub near Cardiff railway station in the city centre, had said this morning they were banning English supporters from entering as they wanted to create a ‘safe atmosphere’ for Wales fans.

But the venue, which has giant screens up for the World Cup match and has shown all previous Three Lions matches, has since performed a U-turn after a storm of protest.

The pub chain announced: ‘We have made the decision to welcome both Wales and England football fans to watch the exciting World Cup 2022 tie this evening. 

‘As always, we will have security in place to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy the football.’

Meanwhile, the boss of fellow pub chain Fuller’s said the tournament has been a huge boost for venues since it began on November 20, after a difficult couple of years for the hospitality sector due to Covid.

Chief executive Simon Emeny told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘It’s going to be the biggest of the three group matches, a Home Nations fixture with a lot hanging on it.

‘We as a company and a sector will be crossing everything for an English victory because they will then play a last 16 game on Sunday at 7pm which will be great for pubs, so we’d get a great day and an even better day on Sunday.

‘It’s very much additional bookings [that the World Cup has produced] – for the first match last Monday, takings ranged from up 30%-40%.

‘There’s no better place to watch an English victory or performance than in a pub with your friends and family and colleagues, it’s a much more enjoyable experience than watching it at home.

It doesn’t displace [Christmas bookings], it’s incremental, which is why we need England – or Wales – to get as far as possible for the sector when we’ve had a difficult two or three years, so we’ll be crossing everything for an England win at Fuller’s today.’

Meanwhile, fans in Tenerife are preparing for tonight’s clash the only way they know how – with a full English breakfast washed down with an ice cold Spanish beer.

Thousands of Welsh and England supporters have flocked to Spain for some winter sun and are already packing into the lively bars and restaurants as excitement builds towards the big kick off..

Among them were a group of friends from Pontypool, south Wales, who opted to enjoy the beautiful game in laid-back Tenerife rather than endure the harsh rules of Qatar.

Jack Grout, 22, told MailOnline: ‘We came here especially to watch the World Cup. We’ve been here for about ten days.

‘We decided it was a much better bet to be here in Tenerife than going to Qatar because of the expense and all the rules and regulations there.

‘It’s been great fun so far, a real laugh. We just hope our boys can do us proud.’

Friends Leah Phillips, 26, and Morgan Williams, 27, from Merthyr have been sunbathing between matches.

Leah, who works in finance, told MailOnline: ‘We we’re looking for some winter sun and we knew lots of Welsh fans were coming to Tenerife to watch the football so we thought ‘why not’.’

A group of England fans from Sheffield told how they were looking forward to the game.

Chris Taylor said: ‘As long as England score I will be happy!’

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have won the last six matches against their rivals but Rob Page’s men, led by talisman Gareth Bale, need their first win over England since 1984 and results to go their way as their last 16 hopes hang by a thread.

England are also under huge pressure in the first ever match between the home nations at a World Cup, needing a better result after a bore 0-0 draw against the USA on Friday night. They beat Iran 6-2 in their first match and will top the group with a win but a draw will also see them through.

Around 10,000 English and Welsh fans are in Qatar  for the match and they enjoyed a raucous night in Doha ahead of the crunch game. The beer and wine will be flowing at home with the nation already splashing out £215million on booze for the game. 

Bars and clubs are also expected to be packed for the game, with pubs saying they expect Tuesday takings to be up 40 per cent tonight.

Thousands of England and Wales fans descended on Doha today for their crucial World Cup encounter dubbed the ‘Battle of Britain.’

Doha was a sea of red and white shirts as the fans flooded into the city for the first-ever clash between two home nations at a World Cup.

Around 30 flights carrying supporters heading to Qatar touched down at breakfast time as they were greeted by searing heat.

England fans gathered in Doha’s Red Lion pub from early this morning and began downing pints of lager.

Graham Eastham, 38, draped in an England flag, roared: ‘This is going to be a great derby. But only one team’s going to win and it’s not Wales.

‘We’ve had a fantastic tournament and it’s going to get even better when we beat Wales.’

Rob Carty, 59 and his son Elliot, 28, from Bristol, added: ‘This is going to be an epic British match and we’re all looking forward to it.

‘England are the better side but Wales need to save their pride because they’ve had a rotten World Cup. It’ll be like being back home for this game with a passionate British crowd getting behind their teams.’

Elliot said: ‘England will win but it’ll be a tough game. Both sets of players know each other well so it’ll be very competitive.

‘Wales have had a terrible World Cup and they’ll be going home before we are.’

Llanymynech is a village divided, half is in Wales and half in England

Families in the village have been split by the match

England fans pose for a photograph at a souq in Doha on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

Fans gather at the Red Lion Pub & Restaurant in Doha, Qatar, on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

A Wales fan and an England fan put rivalries aside and enjoy a drink together before the game

Wales fans Tony Rodgers (left), Mike Gristwood (centre) and Steve Pope (right) in the Red Lion Pub & Restaurant in Doha, Qatar

Tony Meakin, 55, from London, said: ”It’ll be a cracking match and we’re going to have a good few pints before kick off.

‘The atmosphere will be electric. All the England fans want to see a great victory so that we can send the Welsh home.’

His friend Andrew Curl, 48, said: ‘It’s been a fantastic tournament so far and it’ll be great to beat our Welsh cousins.

‘We’ve been here since the start of the tournament and have been having a good laugh with the Welsh lads. But sadly they’ll be crying tonight as they’ll have to go home.’

Joe Seymour, 36, a town planner from Cheltenham and Welsh fan, said: ‘It has cost me £2,500 to see this match, but every penny is just worth it.

‘I think Wales can beat England, we have to be mentally tougher and really up for it.

‘It is an absolute privilege to see this match and to be in Doha, where the people have been fantastic with us.’

He and his friend Ciarhan Webb, 36, from Cardiff raised a glass to Gareth Bale and his team at Doha’s Red Lion pub.

Mr Webb said: ‘for so long we have been the underdogs, but tonight we can prove our worth. We have the players, they have the experience and they have us as fans cheering them on.

‘I truly believe Wales can beat England and if everything goes well we can qualify and carry on in the World Cup’

Fans gather at the Red Lion Pub & Restaurant in Doha, Qatar, on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

England and Wales fans number around 10,000 in Doha. Millions will be watching at home

Wales fans pose for a photograph in a souk in Doha on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

England fan Billy Jones from Sevenoaks and Welsh fan Richard Bradshaw from Bangor

Wales fans pose for a photograph in Doha on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

England fans Tony Meakin, left and Andrew Curl enjoy a pre-match pint in Doha

England fans pose for a photograph on the Corniche in Doha on the day of the FIFA World Cup Group B match between Wales and England

England fans arriving at the Red Lion in Doha ahead of tonight’s crunch Group B clash

Doha’s Red Lion pub has become a popular haunt for supporters of both home nations and the tens of thousands of international fans who have travelled across continents for football’s biggest tournament. 

Mike Ritter, 36, from London, said his experience of the tournament in Qatar has been better than expected although joked the ‘football has been worse’ after watching England’s 0-0 draw with USA.

Mr Ritter, who is attending his fourth World Cup and arrived on a shuttle flight from Dubai, said: ‘We landed at 10am this morning and fly back at seven tomorrow morning and between 3am and 7am there’s not a lot to do, but hopefully it’s a good result and we don’t really care.’

On what England boss Gareth Southgate should do against Wales, Mr Ritter replied: ‘Play Phil Foden. He should have come on at half-time against the States, so I think it’s important he gets a game today.’

His friend James Vincent, 36, and living in Dubai, said the long days for the shuttle flights to Qatar left him feeling ‘pretty knackered’, adding: ‘Hopefully it’ll be worthwhile this time.’

Mr Vincent said of the trips: ‘Our flights today and last week were all Wales fans so we’ve been a bit outnumbered, they’re OK, a good laugh, they’re on their best behaviour, at least for now.’

On his prediction for the Wales game, Mr Vincent said: ‘I hope to see an England win maybe 2-0, 3-0 will be great, as long as we don’t lose, I’ll be happy.’

England fan Mick Martin, 62, from Aylesbury, said Wales are a ‘wounded animal’ but added: ‘We should be good enough. If we’re not good enough to beat Wales or get a good result against Wales we really shouldn’t be, should we?’

Mr Martin said the trip to Qatar has been ‘beyond our expectations’, also saying: ‘It’s great to have all the different supporters in one city, which makes it a bit chaotic, we can find our beers when want to, watch the games very easily, we’ve got nothing to worry about.’

Speaking in the Red Lion pub in Doha, Mr Martin said of England’s chances at the tournament: ‘We’re positive, we’re very optimistic – we’re deluded optimists, we’re stupid idiots really, it’s a rollercoaster but we always hope that we’re going to win and expect we’re going to win, but we’re not too down if we don’t.’

Alistair Banham, 67, from Buckinghamshire, added: ‘We got here knowing it’d be different to other World Cups and we adjusted to that and it has exceeded my expectations and it’s been really, really good – great fans, camaraderie, no trouble, you can find a beer, get to the grounds.’

His first World Cup was Germany in 2006, adding on Qatar: ‘It’s a different atmosphere, it’s been really good fun, you adjust to the environment and what you have to do is respect the local country.’

Andrew Doyle, from Norwich, added he worries Gareth Southgate will set England up to play for a draw against Wales, adding: ‘We want to attack, win the game, be positive, get the momentum going for the next round because those games you have to win.’

Back home, the Kirby Estate in Bermondsey, south east London, was completely covered in dozens of St George’s Cross flags. 

Meanwhile, cute footage shows a pride of lions demonstrating affection for their namesake England football team.

One lioness, which lives at Knowsley Safari in Merseyside, was captured cradling a box painted with the St George’s cross after knocking away others featuring England’s Group B rivals.

But the apex predators also seemed a little ‘peed off’ at England’s draw against the US on Friday, with another big cat urinating on the American flag.

A spokesperson for the park said: ‘The lions at Knowsley Safari in Merseyside have got World Cup fever.

‘They’re proudly following the Lions in Group B, keeping a close eye on Wales and Iran, but they’re a bit peed off with Friday night’s England/USA performance.

‘The pride male found it laughable. Hopefully, England’s lions can be as dangerous in and around the box as these big cats tonight.’

England fan Chris Weight (right) and Wales fan Chris Thomas (left) enjoy a friendly drink together in the Red Lion bar in Doha

Friends Len Williams, known as Taffy, and Phil Shone, enjoy a bit of banter at the ‘last pub in England’, the Brewery Arms in Saltney, ahead of the Wales v England game

‘The last pub in England’ – the Brewery Arms in Saltney, Chester

England and Wales meet at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for their final group B fixture, dubbed the ‘Battle of Britain’, with hoards of supporters having made the trip and millions more watching back home. 

The Three Lions currently top the group and need just a point to guarantee their progress to the knockout stages while Wales must win and hope for a favourable result between Iran and the USA. 

If old rivalries are expected to be displayed on the pitch, the tension was not reflected among the bar’s patrons as laughing, music and popular chants from the characteristically vocal Wales fans rang out.

Fans outside of Doha are also gearing up to watch the all-important showdown. 

The Sun reported that an estimated £215million will be spent at home by fans watching the game.

Pubs will get a £75million boost and the rest will be spent in supermarkets as people stock up snack cupboards and drink cabinets.  

But despite the jovial atmosphere at the Red Lion, the gravity of the impending match was not forgotten – particularly among the Welsh contingent. 

Among the numbers on the heaving floor was new arrival Steven Williams, from Rhydyfelin in Pontypridd, South Wales, who had booked a ticket after seeing Wales’ poor performance in the last two games. 

‘A lot of people put us down after the last game but I thought I have to go out there – I’m here flying the flag for the Welsh,’ the 47-year-old said. 

‘I’d like to come out with a win tomorrow, but that almost doesn’t matter as much as the statement we’re making here in Qatar.

‘We’ve waited 64 years for this and we’re here in the bars, the restaurants, in the Souq and everywhere in between making our presence known.’ 

A quiet A483 outside Chester before tonight’s clash between England and Wales at the World Cup

Windsor town centre was deserted this morning ahead of tonight’s huge World Cup clash

Empty roads in the village of Ruabon in Wales before tonight’s clash between England and Wales at the World Cup

Windsor town centre was deserted this morning ahead of tonight’s huge World Cup clash

Empty roads in Liverpool before tonight’s clash between England and Wales at the World Cup

Windsor town centre was deserted this morning ahead of tonight’s huge World Cup clash

Windsor town centre was deserted this morning ahead of tonight’s huge World Cup clash

For others, including Lee Holloway, 43, from Pontypridd, the result matters more. 

He said: ‘I just want us to go home with pride, but right now we can’t do that. I think when we play against out old enemies we turn up. 

‘But it’s going to be a tough game, there’s no doubt about that. If the boys turn up we might get a 1-0, but that might not be enough.’ 

Isaac Thomas, a 23-year-old teacher from Swansea, has travelled alone to Qatar – not wanting to miss the moment to see Wales in a World Cup – and said he had so far had a ‘brilliant experience’. 

‘It’s a beautiful place and I’ve met so many friendly people, it’s nothing like it was portrayed in the media,’ Mr Thomas said. 

‘The only disappointing thing has been the football.’ 

‘That and the price of a pint – but that hasn’t stopped us,’ he joked. 

‘But the players just haven’t shown up yet. So I hope and pray for a win tomorrow and a draw in the Iran v USA game.’ 

Thomas Elward, 55, from Gilfach Goch, revealed he had been journeying to Wales away matches since he was 13 years old, and said he was ‘confident’ Wales would defeat England. 

‘I’m confident we’re going to win, but it doesn’t matter if we lose because we support Wales, that makes us winners,’ he said. 

The English fans dotted throughout the place seemed more calm, and appeared to be looking ahead beyond the group stages – confident they would qualify. 

William Threlfall, 56, who lives in Cambridge and has been following England home and away for 30 years, described his experience in Qatar as ‘amazing’ and predicted a 2-0 England win. 

He added: ‘Tournament football starts when you are through the group games, we will criticise Gareth Southgate then (if needed).’ 

Steven Williams (centre) and Lee Holloway (right) proudly hold a Welsh flag in the Red Lion in Doha ahead of the big match. Wales will need to win the match and hope for a good result when Iran play the US if they are going to progress

Supporters watch matches from the Red Lion bar in Doha, were fans can purchase alcoholic drinks

His friend Chris Finch, 50, from Nottinghamshire, added: ‘We’re never going to win anything being risk averse.’ 

Mr Finch believes England boss Southgate has adopted the ‘safe option’, noting: ‘It will work until we play someone good in the quarters and we will be off home.’

Brothers Simon and John Hatter, from Nottingham, said they had arrived in Qatar ahead of the Wales game and planned to stay for as long as England remain in the tournament. 

Simon, 52, and John, 57, hope to see Jack Grealish start – with the pair having a soft spot for the Manchester City attacker due to a loan spell at their team Notts County earlier in his career. 

Simon said: ‘I think England will win against Wales, get through the group and last 16, and it will be harder in the quarter finals – France look good.’ 

He added on Tuesday’s game: ‘I reckon 3-1 England.’ 

Sports minister Stuart Andrew has said he will wear the rainbow-coloured armband prohibited by Fifa when he attends the game. 

The Conservative frontbencher, who is gay, said it was ‘really unfair’ that football’s governing body prevented the captains of England and Wales donning the OneLove anti-discrimination armband at the 11th hour. 

Revellers enjoyed the rooftop bar in Doha with views across the bay. Fans at home are expected to spend £215million on snacks and drinks ahead of the home nations crunch match

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said it was ‘really unfair’ that England players not been allowed to wear ‘One Love’ armbands 

Wales also announced that winger Dan James had gifted tickets to volunteers at their World Cup training base for the game. 

Elsewhere, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the UK’s football policing lead, said that there had been no arrests or incidents in the opening nine days of the tournament and praised England and Wales fans for their ‘exemplary’ behaviour.

He said the lack of trouble at the Qatar World Cup, which he believed was in large part due to alcohol being less available, was a sign that ministers should resist calls to ease restrictions on drinking in UK football grounds. 

It comes as police in Tenerife say they will launch a major security operation to prevent any possible violence during the England and Wales game. 

Video footage emerged of a brawl outside bars on the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands on Friday evening, with people wearing England and Wales shirts involved.

UK police fear people prevented from travelling to Qatar for the World Cup may have been involved in the incident in Tenerife, but added they have yet to confirm this. 

England v Wales: The history of the grudge match 

England and Wales first played each other in an international friendly in January 1879. 

Since then, the Three Lions have won 68 matches against the Dragons, drawn 21 and lost 14. 

The last time England met Wales on the football pitch was in October 2020. England won 3-0 in the international friendly. 

The last time Wales came out on top of a home nations match against England was in 1984, when they won 1-0 after Mark Hughes got one past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. 

The last time Wales beat England was in 1984. Welsh fans are hoping for a surprise victory this evening to keep them in the tournament 

The last ten England-Wales matches:  

20 May, 1981 England v Wales 0-0 British Home Championship: DRAW

27 Apr, 1982 Wales v England 0-1 British Home Championship: ENGLAND WIN

23 Feb, 1983 England v Wales 2-1 British Home Championship: ENGLAND WIN

02 May, 1984 Wales v England 1-0 British Home Championship: WALES WIN

09 Oct, 2004 England v Wales 2-0 FIFA World Cup: ENGLAND WIN

3 Sep, 2005 Wales v England 0-1 FIFA World Cup: ENGLAND WIN

26 Mar, 2011 Wales v England 0-2 UEFA European Championship: ENGLAND WIN

06 Sep, 2011 England v Wales 1-0 UEFA European Championship: ENGLAND WIN

16 Jun, 2016 England v Wales 2-1 UEFA European Championship: ENGLAND WIN

8 Oct, 2020 England v Wales 3-0 International Friendly: ENGLAND WIN

 Source: 11v11

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