If there is one subject in the world which splits nationalities it has to be football and with the Euro 2012 football competition now well underway, intense rivalries and very different opinions are coming to the fore. We recently ran a poll on the expatforum.com website asking expats in different countries who they thought would win the Euro 2012.
While there are some general patterns emerging which we could all have envisaged there are some interesting deviations from the traditional opinions. It is also very easy to forget the impact which football, and sport in general, can have on not only sentiment but actual economic activity.
The Euro 2012 football competition has been long awaited by football fans around the world having been awarded to the Ukraine and Poland some time ago. While there were some initial concerns that some of the stadiums would not be ready in time for the tournament these have proved unfounded as have some suggestions of significant friction between the various football fans and nationalities in the region.
At a time when the worldwide economy is struggling for many people the Euro 2012 competition is a welcome distraction. Despite the fact that many people are struggling to make ends meet across the globe it seems that hundreds of thousands of football fans have been able to find significant savings to ensure they can support their team during the tournament. We have a vast array of different countries participating with the favourites such as Spain and Germany down to the relative unfancied countries such as Greece, Republic of Ireland and Sweden.
The beauty of football for many people is that while on paper it looks very easy to predict, the reality is it is perhaps one of the hardest games in the world to follow. Your emotions will go on rollercoasters the likes of which you will never have felt before. Even if your team is lucky enough to make it through to the finals and lift the trophy we can guarantee that you will have felt the high of the highs and the low of the lows all in just a matter of weeks.
So, let us now take a look at the votes from the UK expat community which on paper you would have expected to follow the England team but is that the right?
Spain (28.07% of the vote)
If you are a neutral football fan it will come as no surprise to learn that Spain received the most number of votes from expats in the UK although it was still relatively close between Spain and England. When you take into account the fact that the Spanish team is now looking to take its third major tournament trophy in succession, after winning Euro 2008 and the World Cup, there is no doubt they will be a major force. There are few who would back again Spain winning again but who knows?
We also thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Spanish economy which is now the centre of attention as the Eurozone continues to disintegrate. The government recently asked for a €100 billion plus bailout package for its banking sector with many expecting the government to follow suit with regards to an economic bailout. The money markets have been crippling the Spanish government for some time now and with yields now nearing the tipping point of 7% it seems that sovereign debt in Spain could drag the economy down. Would a win at Euro 2012 help sentiment?
It will come as no surprise to learn that the football mad nation of England has received a significant amount of the vote from expats living in the country. It does trail Spain by just over five percentage points but when you bear in mind that many experts believe this current England team is amongst the worst we have seen for over 30 years then perhaps this is something of a victory on paper. However, that will not stop the England team and the England fans praying that they can turn around the odds and deliver victory, the first major tournament victory since 1966.
There is an interesting contrast between the UK economy, which has for many years been at the centre of Europe, and the Eurozone as a whole of which the UK is not a member. Even though the UK economy recently slipped back into a double dip recession the situation is nowhere near as dire as that currently being experienced by Eurozone members. However, interestingly it is also worth noting that the UK taxpayer have been forced to invest billions upon billions of pounds into various bailout packages despite the fact that there is no direct benefit – although the UK will benefit from a stronger Europe.
Spain, England and Germany were head and shoulders above any other football teams in the online vote. It is fairly ironic to see that the Germans have been pushed back into third place by Spain and England at a time when many believe the German team is set to be victorious again. It is more than a decade since the German football team won a major tournament and while nowhere near as long as that experienced by England fans it is something that the Germans are very keen to put right.
The German economy has for many years now been the backbone of Europe and indeed it is the German politicians who are pulling the strings in relation to various bailouts and austerity measures. Chancellor Merkel is stuck in a very difficult situation because on one hand her voters in Germany are asking her to be strong while on the other hand there are various European governments with their begging bowls. Germany is not only the powerhouse of Europe today but it is also the financial Chancellor in what for many is becoming a very unbalanced Eurozone.
In years gone by the Italian football team would have been one of the favourites in any football tournament anywhere around the world. However, Italian football has undergone something of a major change over the last few years and has been dogged by more controversies than any other footballing nation in the world. While there is no doubt that the Italian football scene has more than its fair share of superstars and highly talented individuals very often it seems as though they are unable to come together as a team at the major tournaments. However, there are some who believe that Italy could well be the dark horses of Euro 2012?
The Italian economy is, like the Spanish economy, certainly in the sights of investors who are looking for the next major economy to require a bailout. The yield on Italian sovereign debt is now pushing ever closer to that 7% tipping point at which many experts believe a bailout will be required. If the Spanish economy was to collapse then it seems almost certain that the Italian economy would follow. There have been underlying financial issues associated with Italy for many years but so far these have not yet been resolved. Will they come back to haunt the country?
The Dutch team have been something of an enigma for many years now with some of the most talented individuals in worldwide football yet an inability to pull together as a team. Indeed over the years the Dutch team has been ripped apart by various squabbles and while there are hopes that this year will be different we will need to see. If the players can pull in the same direction then there is no reason why they cannot go on to be a major force in this tournament but history says that infighting and internal squabbles will rule the way.
The Dutch economy is not one which is always mentioned with regards to major leading European economies but it is part of the Eurozone. The economy, like so many across Europe, is currently in recession and while it is expected to move back into a growth phase in 2013 apparently these figures assume that the Italian and Spanish debt situations will have been resolved. This situation seems less and less likely and if, as many expect, a significant bailout is required by the Italian and Spanish governments then we may well need to recalculate the Dutch economic forecast.
It is unclear whether traditional French/UK competition and friction is to blame for France falling into sixth place with regards to UK expats but for some reason they appear to be unfancied in Euro 2012. This is despite the fact that the French team has gone more than 20 games without defeat and in the eyes of many is seen as a potential victor in the tournament. However, like so many other teams around the world the French players have flattered to deceive when it comes to major tournaments and it would take a brave person to place money on them.
The French economy has slipped back into recession and the ongoing friction between the UK government and the French government continues. How ironic that the French and English teams will play each other in the group phase of the tournament at a time when relations have perhaps never been lower. The French economy is struggling to pull away from the ongoing economic downturn and indeed there have been vague suggestions that the French government may well need financial assistance from their European counterparts. Once a powerhouse in Europe, the French position has changed dramatically over the last few months.
Among some of the other more fancied teams in the Euro 2012 competition are Russia and Poland although there were a number of tongue-in-cheek suggestions and comments regarding who may win. The truth is that while the likes of Spain and Germany seem to be, on paper at least, head and shoulders above everybody else the situation can change dramatically once in tournament mode. Each of the teams in the tournament has some very special players and if some of the more “mediocre” players were able to move onto the next level then who knows what may happen?
In relation to the economic performance of other entries in the Euro 2012 competition it has to be said that many of them are simply being pulled along by the likes of the UK, France, Germany, etc. Many of the smaller Eurozone member states were attracted to the strength of an overall Europe as opposed to individuals acting on their own behalf. Whether they will live to pay the price if the Eurozone was to break up and collapse remains to be seen but there is no doubt that a very select few European countries are currently pulling the financial strings.
Expats in the UK
The UK attracts expats from many different countries around the world and it is interesting to see that the most popular winner of Euro 2012 appears to be Spain. It is also worth noting that the likes of Spain, Germany and England were head and shoulders above any other countries currently competing at Euro 2012. Will England be victorious for the first time since 1966? Will Spain make it three in a row or will Germany plod along and take the spoils? We will see very shortly as slowly but surely the weaker teams fall by the wayside and the stronger teams come to the top.
Where will you be watching the Euro 2012 games?
While many football fans around the world will be watching the Euro 2012 games on their free to air national channels it is easy to forget that not all countries have this particular service. There are a number of threads on the forum with many members discussing how and where they will watch the games as well as a number of popular satellite channels being mentioned. It seems as though there is interest from every expat community around the world and while some will be watching at home, others will be watching with friends, others will be at social gatherings and others will be down their local pub – demand is very high.
How do sporting tournaments impact upon local economies?
There have been a number of research projects into how sporting tournaments can impact upon not only the local economy, i.e. where the tournament is being held, but also victorious teams and their supporters. It does seem, rather bizarrely to some people, that in times of trouble a victorious sporting event can bring populations together and have a positive impact upon not only sentiment but economic performance.
There will be European governments with a very watchful eye on the Euro 2012 tournament in the hope that their teams can perform well and they can bring back some good cheer with them. The reality is that the European economy is under so much pressure at the moment that nobody dare look ahead to the medium or longer term as the short-term situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible. It will be very interesting to see whether this pattern of positive sentiment is repeated and indeed whether a famous victory can at least take the minds of the local population away from their dire economic situation for just a moment.
While historically it may well surprise some to learn that expats in the UK believe that Spain is the favourite to win the Euro 2012 football competition, with the UK second and Germany third, this is perhaps no surprise when you take into account the recent successes of the Spanish team. However, there is no doubt that this will still stick in the throats of many English football fans who blindly follow their team around the world in the belief that the spectre of 1966 will soon become history. Will they be proved right?
Throughout the overall poll, which takes in a number of different expat communities, Spain, Germany and England have remained head and shoulders above anybody else. It is also interesting to learn that these are some of the strongest economies in Europe and while times are hard for everybody within Europe at the moment it seems that football beats everything in many ways. Sentiment improves in the short term, economic activity increases and if your team is lucky enough to win then there is no doubt that the economy will benefit from the feelgood factor. However, is the European situation so dire that even a win for your team would have limited impact upon your everyday life?
No matter which team in the world you support there is no doubt that football brings together fans from all nationalities. For some people it is the opportunity to take their minds off their domestic situation for just a few weeks and dream the dream that their team will be victorious and lift the trophy. At this time more than any other time there are many European countries which would give their right arm for some short-term relief and joy!