Not even the doom and gloom of current economic turmoil can dampen fans’ enthusiasm for football. Few – if any – sporting events show the same ability to bring fans together. Euro 2012 offers fans the chance to live the dream and to imagine what it would be like if their team won the trophy. The power of football is there for all to see, and we thought it would be interesting to run a poll on expatforum.com to see which teams were favoured by different expats in different countries.
While most of the voting trends won’t come as a surprise, the results of our poll show some unexpected anomalies. They also reveal very different voting patterns between countries.
When the footballing authorities awarded Euro 2012 to a joint-venture between Poland and the Ukraine, fans and officials were sceptic. There were major concerns that the two governments would struggle financially, would fail to deliver a suitable infrastructure and would fall behind when building the new state-of-the-art football stadiums. However, despite the fact that the tournament has only just begun there has so far been positive feedback from both fans and officials – many people have been pleasantly surprised.
The tournament itself could not have come at a better time for those living in Europe. European governments currently face huge economic challenges and in several countries unemployment rates have soared. There has been an impending sense of economic doom in newspaper headlines for many months now; personal wealth has been hit hard and businesses are struggling to survive. However, against this gloomy backdrop football fans have shown unrelenting support as they travel in their thousands to Portugal and the Ukraine to see their home teams play. It seems that football has the ability to bring people together, to inject hope and to allow people to dream the dream, for no matter how short a period this may last.
While we obviously have our tournament favourites – Spain, Germany, Portugal, etc. – the reality is that football is such an unpredictable game that nothing is ever certain. On paper we can all look at specific games and be certain that team A will beat team B, but in reality football is rarely so straightforward. It is the unpredictability and the emotional rollercoaster of the game itself that has brought hundreds of thousands of football fans to Poland and the Ukraine – all united in the hope that their team will take home the trophy.
We are starting to see a definitive trend in our voting poll: football fans worldwide agree that Spain and Germany are emerging as strong favourites to win. Most Australian expats believe that Spain is odds-on to win the trophy again – if they did, 2012 would be Spain’s third consecutive major trophy following the last European Championships and the last World Cup. Can the Spanish team deliver for an unprecedented third time, or will one of the lesser-fancied teams step up to the mark?
The ongoing success of the Spanish football team could not have come at a better moment for the Spanish population as the Spanish economy continues to deteriorate. Only a few days ago, the Spanish government was forced to go cap-in-hand to European counterparts for a €100 billion+ banking bailout. The yield on Spanish sovereign debt has also increased dramatically over the last few weeks; it now stands in excess of the 7% tipping point after which many believe there can be no return. The comparison between the Spanish football team and the Spanish economy could not be further apart.
German expats living and working in Australia certainly seem to have taken on board the chances of the German team winning the Euro 2012 tournament. The German football squad is very predictable, very strong and they now have more than their fair share of flair players. As a consequence, many experts believe that now is the time for the German team to step up to the mark again to secure the Euro 2012 trophy. Whether this will happen remains to be seen, but there is a good chance that Germany will figure in the endgame.
The German economy has very similar traits to those of the German football team. It is very predictable, very strong and the German economy arguably forms a strong financial backbone for Europe. While the Spanish, Italian and several other economies struggle, at this moment in time the German economy continues to grow. It isn’t all roses and sunshine for Germany though; there is growing pressure on Chancellor Merkel to deliver bailout package after bailout package for struggling European counterparts, with the expectation that Germany will fund the lion’s share. This will not go down well with German voters!
It is perhaps a little surprising to see the English football team so far down the voting table with regards to Australian expats, especially when considering the high number of English expats living over there. This could be down to the fact that many people believe the English 2012 team is the weakest for many years. Even the most supportive England fan seems to give their team little chance of overall success. However, as the tournament progresses and the England squad continue to move ahead, will we perhaps see sentiment improve and hope increase?
The UK economy recently slipped back into recession as a consequence of the ever-worsening situation within Europe. The UK government took the decision long ago not to enter the Eurozone, nor to adopt the Euro, yet the UK is still financing bailouts. With the UK government now introducing a series of hard-hitting austerity measures, this ongoing refinancing of various European economies has not been well-received. How can the UK government afford to finance European bailouts, yet on the other hand suggest it has insufficient funds to continue with many popular public services?
If you break any one team down according to player ability, Holland will certainly be a popular favourite to win. This is a country which continues to produce strong player after strong player, has the ability and the mentality to win, but has been repeatedly held back by continuous infighting amongst the squad. There are some who believe 2012 could be the year for the Dutch team, while others disagree, blaming ongoing squabbles within the team. Team harmony has never been an advantage for the Dutch national team!
The Dutch economy is rarely in the news; it is one of the smaller economies within Europe. This isn’t to say that the financial crisis hasn’t impacted Holland – the economy recently slipped back into recession and while the official forecast is that it will move towards growth in the latter part of 2012, there is no real guarantee. There are growing concerns that the Italian and Spanish economies will need a large financial bailout in the short term, which will have a knock-on effect on European economic growth, holding back any signs of recovery for Holland until at least 2013.
In footballing terms there are few teams which can boast the quality, the depth and the winning mentality of the Italian national football team. However, over the last few years the Italian football sector has been ripped apart by allegations of financial irregularities and alleged match-fixing. A number of Italy’s major footballing stars have been affected and at least one player was sent home after it was announced he was under police investigation. This is not the backdrop you want when entering Euro 2012, but will it perhaps bring the Italian team closer together?
From a situational point of view, the Italian economy also mirrors the Italian football team. It has been the subject of much speculation over the years regarding financial mismanagement and alleged political and administrative irregularities. Indeed, many believe that the ongoing troubles with the Italian economy – and the increase in the yield on Italian sovereign debt – will force the government to approach European counterparts asking for a massive financial bailout. If this were to happen, it would definitely restrict short to medium-term economic growth within Europe and would also have a major impact upon the financial credibility of the country.
Surprisingly, no expats in Australia have confidence in France to win Euro 2012. The French team is currently on a 20-match unbeaten run – they have the flair players, they have the skill, they have the strength in numbers and they have the self-confidence. Can they deliver in 2012? Few voters would bet against France lifting the trophy, but the French team is unreliable and inspires nagging doubts. When the going gets tough, the French team never seems to perform.
The French economy has had a troubled time over the last few months, with both financial pressure and major political change. Pres. Sarkozy paid the price for residing over the French economic downturn; he was voted out of office and replaced with a far-left-wing party. Many believe that France’s historic pro-European stance is now turning towards an anti-European stance, which could impact the short- to medium-term performance of the economy. While the economy is nowhere near as bad as the situation in Spain or Italy, there are concerns that if one of the other major economies were to fail then the pressure on France would peak.
There were a number of comments suggesting other teams as strong contenders for 2012, as well as a number of tongue-in-cheek suggestions about who might win. Several tipped Russia as the surprise star, with some voters claiming that the Russian team is on the verge of breaking into the big-time and could prove Euro 2012’s best-kept secret. There is no doubt that the Russian team has the key factors to win; they have a number of excellent players, the experience and the talent. Will this be enough to see the Russian team secure their first major trophy for years?
The European economic situation has deteriorated dramatically in recent years and for some countries the outlook is bleak. It isn’t all economic doom and gloom though – countries such as Germany and the UK have stayed comparatively strong in contrast to their European counterparts. There are many who believe that the influence of the German government within Europe will develop as the situation declines; Angela Merkel and the German government certainly seem to be holding the purse strings. It will be interesting to see how Europe combined manages this fragile economy and indeed how the power base will be shared across the Eurozone and Europe as a whole.
Expats in Australia
The standout revelation from this poll has been the strong influence from a large number of UK expats in Australia. In collating the poll results, there appeared to be far greater support for the England football team than we might have anticipated. The reality is that confidence in the England squad is low – many believe that the current crop of players is perhaps the weakest in the past 30 years and the team has little hope of lifting the trophy. Whether or not this is correct remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: there is overwhelming support for Spain and Germany in the tournament.
Football on the whole is becoming increasingly popular across Australia. We have recently seen the investment of hundreds of millions of Australian dollars in the football sector. There are also a number of high-profile Australian players operating in the English Premier league, which has raised the profile of Australian football in general. There is no doubt there will be a demand for Euro 2012 games across not only the expat community in Australia, but also the domestic Australian population as a whole.
Where will you be watching the Euro 2012 games?
Not every country in the world offers the tournament free-to-view, as the UK does. Other countries are catching on though, and this year not only the traditional satellite TV companies, but also some of the smaller satellite TV operations have signed up for 2012 match feeds. Indeed, a significant amount of money has been invested in TV rights across the globe and there will be very few, if any, countries which will not show at least the majority of the tournament games.
For many people, nothing beats the traditional location of the local pub, where fans can enjoy each match with family and friends. Where will you be watching Euro 2012?
How do sporting tournaments influence local economies?
Host nations enjoy a significant economic boost during large-scale sporting events – this has been seen with both Poland and the Ukraine. The 2012 tournament hosts were revealed some years ago and there has been increased investment in local infrastructure and football stadiums since. Historically, it has been proven that hosting such a prestigious tournament can and does inject something of a “feelgood” factor into the local population. It has also been shown to improve employment rates.
The victors of major tournaments also benefit from this “feelgood” factor. Imagine how an England team lifting the trophy would be received back home in England? It’s easy to picture how a 2012 win would distract people – albeit temporarily – from the current economic turmoil.
The Australian expat community seems to be ruled by its head, rather than by its heart. Where we might have anticipated support for England in greater numbers, the expat supporter has remained cautious. Standout favourites to win Spain and Germany are gaining the majority vote, but it is worth remembering that any team which has fought its way into the tournament has earned the right to be there and with it, the right to succeed.
For many people this Euro 2012 tournament could not have come at a better time. Economic upheaval grips the world and especially those living within Europe. Even if your team has little chance of victory at Euro 2012, you have the opportunity to put your financial troubles to one side while the tournament is in progress. If your team is lucky enough to win, make the most of the celebrations. Football offers fans the chance to escape their troubles for a short space of time – in this environment it’s an opportunity worth its weight in gold!