CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury - Pointing the finger of blame at World Cup pulling power/Calling on the World Cup as a convenient excuse for poor financial results simply doesn’t wash, says Nick Fitzherbert, director at Ludgate

There is little need to reiterate quite how much of a big deal the World Cup was; nor how much of a big deal it was always going to be. One does need to stress, however, how extraordinary it is that the whole thing was seized upon by certain companies reporting their financial results recently. Kunick, the slot machine operator, blamed the World Cup for the poor performance of the games machines it operates in the pub trade, and was quoted as saying: ’A lot of pubs brought in big screens for the tournament ... people were watching TV rather than playing our machines.

There is little need to reiterate quite how much of a big deal the

World Cup was; nor how much of a big deal it was always going to be. One

does need to stress, however, how extraordinary it is that the whole

thing was seized upon by certain companies reporting their financial

results recently. Kunick, the slot machine operator, blamed the World

Cup for the poor performance of the games machines it operates in the

pub trade, and was quoted as saying: ’A lot of pubs brought in big

screens for the tournament ... people were watching TV rather than

playing our machines.



It had an amazing effect.’



And Rank joined in, reporting on the performance of its Odeon cinema

chain with a remark along the lines of people preferring football to

films during the four week tournament.



Now I am not the best informed person on football, but I am well aware

that the World Cup comes around once every four years. Without fail. I

also know and accept that England tends to qualify only once every eight

years, but even if this made memories a little hazy, surely Euro 96

provided a pretty big clue as to what lay on the horizon come 1998?



So blaming the World Cup simply won’t do. What these companies said is

probably true, but it won’t do because one of the most fundamental needs

when announcing financial results is to instil confidence-whatever the

outcome or trading conditions at the time.



Perhaps the main difficulty is that building confidence, as with

building reputations, is a long term process. And who is going to think

about tomorrow when there are backs to be minded right here and now?



It might be useful to ponder on just how effectively one should seek to

make one’s excuses, be they good, bad or indifferent. In a recent

attempt to explain why the bottom has fallen out of the jeans market,

Levi-Strauss talked of the ’Clarkson Effect’, that is, jeans have become

the uniform of older, less fashion-conscious people such as Jeremy

Clarkson. So powerfully did this point come across that it extended into

widespread news and features coverage-all thanks to a clever

catchphrase.



Where does it leave Levi-Strauss? Saddled with a role-model whose look

is probably not that appealing even to the originator; and almost

certainly not selling any more jeans.



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