HAMPSHIRE businesses are preparing to share in a multimillion-pound World Cup bonanza.

Shops, bars and restaurants across the county are set to cash in as England boss Gareth Southgate prepares his team in the hope of guiding them to the country’s first World Cup win in more than 50 years.

The football fiesta kicks off today in Russia, when the hosts take on Saudi Arabia in the competition’s opening game.

England don’t begin their campaign until 7pm on Monday, June 18, when they face Tunisia in Group G of the competition.

But pub bosses in Southampton are already busy preparing for a flood of Three Lions fans.

Matthew Ferris, manager of Above Bar Street venue, Neighbourhood, said he has taken on extra staff to deal with the influx of customers.

The 30-year-old said food and drink sales at the popular bar could double during the four week competition.

He said: “When I started here three months ago I had four or five staff, but now I’ve got 10 so we’ve doubled the amount.

“During the Rugby World Cup our food and drink orders doubled and I’d expect it to be the same.”

Asked the reason for the boost, Mr Ferris added: “Southampton is a footballing city.

“I used to run a bar in Portswood and whenever Saints played you see lots of people having fun, having a laugh together.

“Football definitely brings people together in Southampton.”

Another bar boss expecting a World Cup boost is James Lewington from Tapas Barcelona.

The 26-year-old said the Guildhall Square venue was preparing to host hundreds of people when England play Belgium on Thursday, June 28.

He said: “We normally get 50 bookings on an average Thursday night and we’ve got 200 booked for that night.

“It’s going to be massive.”

Mr Lewington, who was raised in Southampton, said he had also employed more staff ahead of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Hampshire businesses chiefs are anticipating a morale boost for staff across the county.

Sandeep Sesodia, chair of the Southampton Business Strategy Group at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses appreciate that the World Cup is a real morale booster for staff and communities.

“Whether it is by supporting the same team or through friendly rivalry, we all come together when the tournament is on.

“And the economy is often the beneficiary as events are held throughout the city, people socialise and enterprise is energised.”

Alongside Three Lions fans, supporters of teams from across the world are expected to be out in force in Southampton during the competition.

Southampton-based fans of both Panama and Belgium are expected to fly their colours when they take on England in Group G.

One venue which could prove popular among Belgium fans is Belgium and Blues, in Above Bar Street.

The upmarket watering hole will show the match live, while serving jugs of ice-cold Belgian beer.

Co-owner Steve Lee said: “When Saints play, we get groups of Belgians who live in the city or just outside come here.

“Hopefully we’ll see a strong Belgian following during the World Cup.”

Bars and restaurants aren’t the only ones getting into the spirit of the famous football festival.

Three Lions fans will be able to see England on the ‘big screen’, free of charge at Showcase Cinema de Lux in Southampton.

The Westquay-based cinema will show all the games from the World Cup, including England’s groups games against Tunisia on Monday, Panama on June 24 and Belgium on June 28.

It will also show the final, in Moscow, on Sunday, July 15.

To celebrate, renowned food artist, Prudence Staite, has created a trophy 75cm tall popcorn trophy for the cinema.

The “Pop of the World” trophy took 50 hours to construct and consists of more than 2,000 pieces of popcorn.

It will be displayed at the cinema throughout the competition.

The renowned food artist said: “Being asked to create something that encompasses the tournament was an honour.

“Combining popcorn with the most iconic and revered trophy in world football was a no-brainer.”

Tickets for the games must be booked in advance.