OPINION: Euro 2008 thrives without England

The European Union, at least in football terms, is thriving while the UK sits on the touchlines watching the parade.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

Those who doubted either the sporting attraction or the commercial viability of a Euro 2008 without the participation of the home nations have been proven wrong. TV audiences have spiralled to a regular seven million-plus. The betting industry has prospered, with fans staking a huge turnover of bets on foreign teams.

Global sponsors such as Coca Cola, JVC, McDonald's and Carlsberg have reached the vital parts of their UK audience. The Queen of the Night anthem on ITV, sung by Natasha Marsh, has launched a top-selling album.

The image of the game has been conveyed as globally inclusive. There remains a suspicion that this was even helped by the absence of the England fans.

In football terms, the hurt is unending for England as the heroes of '66 approach their eighth decade. But the football business, long accustomed to anguished England tournament exits, has marched on triumphantly without our national teams being there.

Many of the armchair millions in the UK switched on to watch Premiership heroes such as Ronaldo, Torres and Henry. They may be playing for Portugal, Spain and France respectively, but the soccer fan's need for ownership of his or her idols was satisfied by their connections with English clubs.

For the home nations, the wake-up call was not just that our international teams' football has not been good enough. It was that the global football business has proved conclusively that it can flourish with or without the islands that spawned the game.

For sponsors, advertisers and broadcasters, Euro 2008 has demonstrated that they can invest without worrying whether England is there. The loyalty of fans is now secured through the globalisation of the Premier League and the TV deals emanating from it.

For PROs and advertisers, soccer has again proved itself to be the supreme medium of global comms. Let us hope England's Italian manager can at least get the team to the next party.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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