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Wetherspoon rues its TV-free ambience as World Cup fever threatens to drive punters to other pubs

The World Cup football championship in France this summer promises to provide a bonanza for the betting and leisure industry - but there is one person who will not be cheering.

Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, the pub chain that has banned TV screens and music from its pubs, yesterday admitted the feast of football will cost the group dear, with drinkers switching to rival hostelries who are willing to show the games. "If Gazza breaks into tears again our sales will suffer. In 1990 sales dipped by 10 per cent a week during the World Cup. This time it could be worse and it will have an effect on second half profits," he said yesterday. Mr Martin also admitted the group had fallen foul of the Trading Standards Office.

Wetherspoon has spend pounds 700,000 introducing new glasses marked with a line indicating a pint measure. The pub chain started an advertising campaign with the slogan "We offer 5 per cent more beer here." However the posters incurred the wrath of trading standards offices, who questioned the group's claims. In the end the they had to be torn down.

Wetherspoon plans to open 50 pubs in the next six months, including what it claimed would be the first new purpose-built site in central Newcastle since Roman times. It is on track to have 500 outlets by 2001 after one of the fastest expansion programmes the pub industry has ever seen.

However it has shelved plans to take the chain overseas and open pubs in Paris.

Investment column, page 22