How Gareth Southgate effect helped lift Harrogate during European Championships

The success of England’s footballers has put a spring back in Harrogate’s step as the town has benefited from the 'Gareth Southgate effect'.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 2:41 pm
C'mon England - Harrogate bar The Tap at Tower Street staff members Caitlin Labonte and Sophie McGeever before the England v Italy match.
C'mon England - Harrogate bar The Tap at Tower Street staff members Caitlin Labonte and Sophie McGeever before the England v Italy match.

England may have lost against Italy last weekend after extra time and penalties but it has still felt like winning times for Harrogate in the last few weeks of Euro 2020.

Neither the result of the European Championship final last Sunday nor the details of Prime Minister’s latest announcement on the end of lockdown the following day went exactly the way everyone had hoped but one thing is for certain - the town hadn’t felt this normal since the onset of the pandemic.

A bus named after England manager Gareth Southgate - Harrogate Bus Company’s CEO Alex Hornby (left) with Welcome to Yorkshire’s CEO James Mason.

If the prospect of all remaining limits on social contact being lifted from next Monday - albeit with a new note of caution from Boris Johnson - changed the atmosphere, it was the achievements of England’s footballers on the pitch which really brought back the feel-good factor even if the big match at Wembley ended in disappointment.

Such was local pride in Gareth Southgate’s men’s heroics, calls have grown for Harrogate itself to honour the England manager who has genuine links to the town.

As a family man who lives in the Harrogate district near Swinsty Reservoir, he is often involved in children’s football in the local Harrogate leagues.

Harrogate Borough Council has stayed tight-lipped on the idea that the much-admired coach should be given Freedom of the Borough.

The council’s leader Coun Richard Cooper said: “Gareth Southgate, and the whole team, are inspirational and he would obviously be an outstanding candidate for the Freedom of the Harrogate Borough.

“However, we would not reveal conversations we have with potential nominees.

“For entirely understandable reasons, we respect the confidentiality of those with whom we might discuss this type of subject.”

Football fever saw several bars in Harrogate screening live football again, some of them for the first time during the pandemic.

Not all of Harrogate’s town centre businesses embraced the Euros fever, some even gave staff time off to watch the final at home.

But those bars which felt able to make the most of the opportunity reported how it felt like big social events were back with the atmosphere electric and their premises packed - despite staying within the limits of the rules of social distancing.

Independent bar owner Robert Thompson, who runs seven bars in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, said it has been a magical period for his award-winning Tap on Tower Street in Harrogate.

Mr Thompson said: “Capacity was down by 40% to ensure we complied with all current recommendations but we got a little creative and installed TVs inside and outside in places we don’t normally have them to maximise all the space we had.

“The atmosphere was electric, back to pre-Covid levels, it truly was emotional seeing everyone together having a great time, cheering on the nation.

“It was a truly friendly, party atmosphere with everyone just out for a great time and just as happy about the return of big social events as the football itself.”

Other bars which showed the Euro matches such as The Alexandra, The Claro Beagle, The Den and Manahatta reported similar scenes - with football boosting the local economy just when it was needed.

Local business group Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) said the tournament had been great for business, even if the England v Italy match did pose a dilemma for one of its team.

BID chair Sara Ferguson, who co-owns Sasso restaurant and Marconi cafe, said: “Major football tournaments involving England are always good businesses for the town’s bars and pubs, particularly if they have TVs or big screens. This year’s was different in many ways because of Covid and restrictions still being in place.

“Being married to an Italian, and co-owning two Italian restaurants in the town centre my loyalties were a little divided, but that said it was great seeing so many people enjoying the games in local bars and pubs, which in turn has helped boost the local economy.”

In the absence of the town putting on a big screen on the Stray for fans, there is no doubt Sunday night in Harrogate town centre was quiet for any business not showing the match.

But the British Retail Consortium confirmed this week that England’s football success had played its part in the nation’s economic bounce back. The Euro 2020 tournament, combined with June’s sunny weather, helped to boost trade, BRC said, while new data from Barclaycard indicated that consumer spending rose 11.1% in June compared with the same period in 2019.

The football may have come and went and plenty of challenges surely lie ahead for Harrogate’s economy but there is already at least one local legacy for the England team and its manager.

The Harrogate Bus Company has named one of its flagship double decker No 36 buses after boss Gareth Southgate.

The bus operator’s chief executive Alex Hornby also announced the England coach is to be offered the freedom of its bus network for a year.

Footfall fans - and bars and businesses in Harrogate - will be hoping Southgate will be too busy engineering success in the World Cup next year to make any real use of it.

How Harrogate’s bars made most of Three Lions success

THE ALEXANDRA, PROSPECT PLACE, HARROGATE

One of Harrogate’s biggest and longest-standing bars, The Alex, as it is known, offered a friendly atmosphere for the England v Italy match with plenty of TV screens.

Aftewards, the pub posted: “Sadly the result didn’t go the way we would’ve liked.

“However, we all want to say a huge thanks at The Alexandra to our wonderful guests for their support, patience and understanding during the entire Euros and, in particular, for the England matches. Here’s to the World Cup next year!”

THE DEN, CAMBRIDGE ROAD, HARROGATE

One of Harrogate’s most popular sports bars, pool venues and live gig venues, The Den pulled out all the stops to ensure all the football fans who turned up had a good view of Sunday night’s match.

The bar, which was only recently extensively refurbished, was fully booked for both England’s Euros semi-final against Denmark and the final against Italy.

It screened the Three Lions’ climatic football showdown on a total of seven HD screens and two projectors.

THE TAP ON TOWER STREET, HARROGATE

Owner Robert Thompson said the bar enjoyed a “brilliant Euros.”

Mr Thompson said: “The Tap isnt normally a site that plays sport as we dont subscribe to platforms like Sky etc.

“However, if its a big sporting event on terrestrial TV like the Six Nations, World Cup and Euros, we do fully get behind it.

“It really started to build at the bar from the Germany game and the final was packed with every socially distanced space being taken. We had a record day despite the Covid restrictions.”