Football, soccer to our US readers, was invented by the English, and the world’s most popular and profitable league is the English Premiership. Unfortunately, for a huge number of companies across the world, the English national team is not very good and has failed to qualify for Euro 2008, which kicks off in Switzerland on Saturday.
The tournament—which brings together 16 of Europe’s top national teams every four years—is second in importance to only the world cup. TV viewers across Europe will be glued to their screens for the next three weeks.
Crucially, though, England will not be there. Viewers in the UK are likely to be as ambivalent about the event as all those Americans who think football should be played with your hands while wearing the sort of shoulder pads that wouldn’t look out of place on the 1980's TV soap, "Dallas."
The English are crucial to a number of key sporting industries. Merchandising and sales of Nikeand Adidas shoes will be lower as a result of England’s absence. Wide screen TV sales from the likes of Philips and Sony will disappoint. And beer sales, that key sporting industry, will be sharply lower across the UK, as well as at the events in Switzerland and Austria—bad news for the likes of Anheuser-Busch , InBev and SABMiller.
With the UK economy is struggling due to the credit crunch, falling house prices and weak consumer confidence, it cannot be stressed enough how big a blow England’s failure to qualify is. England has not failed to qualify for a major tournament since 1994, when the US hosted the World Cup. Every other summer since then has seen a month of heavy drinking and heaving spending.
This year, pubs and bars across England will be like ghost towns by comparison with tournaments past. You can expect High Street to be quiet too. Without trying to be sexist, when the men in my household sit down to watch a game on the weekend, the women of the house go shopping. This will not happen across vast amounts of England over the next three weeks.
England’s failure is also terrible news for the UK’s main commercial broadcaster, ITV. Shares have had a torrid time over the last 12 months. The company's management has battled to fend off digital competition and produce quality content matching that of state-backed broadcaster the BBC.
One of the few bright spots for ITV has been the huge audience pulled in by European club football, and if England had qualified for this summer’s tournament, big audiences would have been guaranteed. Instead, ITV will be running old movies and struggling to attract 3 or 4 million viewers instead of the 20 million plus they may have drawn had the English actually been able to play the game they invented all those years ago.