People and Business: pounds 35 billion team turns its attention to foot ball;

GOLDMAN SACHS has put to one side for the moment the question of whether to go ahead with a pounds 35bn float, and turned to more important matters: the World Cup. (If you think footie is a game played by morons and watched by cretins, skip this bit.)

The investment bank's London economic team has undertaken to predict the result of one big game each week throughout the tournament. The team have also published a highly entertaining 40-page circular "The World Cup and Economics", which links sporting success to national economic performance.

Diplomatically or cravenly, depending on your point of view, Jim O'Neill and his colleagues at Goldmans have avoided the Scots game today and instead gone for this Saturday's match, predicting: Spain 4, Nigeria 2.

So why did the economist's crystal ball fog over for the Scotland/Brazil result? A guilt-ridden Mr O'Neill confesses: "It's because I have such a soft spot for Dennis Law. I hope Scotland win. I'm a Manchester United fan, born and bred."

However, when pushed Mr O'Neill blurts out: "It could be five-nil to Brazil, two-all, or one-nil to Scotland.

"It's because we have such a global audience I shied away from it [the Scots game] I suppose," he adds.

I also notice that Tony Adams, that aging bulwark of the Arsenal defence, features in the Goldman Sachs "World Cup Dream Team". Can they be serious?

"There was a lot of internal protest at Tony Adams - but there are a number of Arsenal fans here," a shame-faced O'Neill Mr admitted. But don't blame chief economist and Islington resident Gavyn Davies - he's a Southampton fan.

And England? "Lucky to get through the second round." You read it here first.

OVER 800 staff at Co-operative Bank's call centres at Skelmersdale and Stockport will be able to see whether Mr O'Neill gets it right; the bank has installed huge TV screens in its offices, in a gesture which management admits is "bowing to the inevitable."

The bankers reckon that everybody in the country with any interest in sport whatsoever will be watching the match anyway, so staff might as well watch too - and be prepared for a post-match surge in phone calls.

David Dunlop, head of personal customer services, said: "We have to be aware of the various elements, such as wet weather and TV programmes like Coronation Street and Eastenders."

CONGRATULATIONS TO my pal and one-time skiing partner Tony Hobman who is taking over the reins as chief executive of Proshare, the campaigner for wider share ownership, on the departure of Gill Nott, the present incumbent.

Ms Nott will leave in April next year when she will have completed five years with the lobby group. Mother of two and married to a City solicitor, Ms Nott is anything but retiring. She is aiming to build on her already extensive portfolio of non-executive directorships, which includes Baronsmead Venture Capital Trust and the soon to be floated HW Group. She was formerly with BP.

Mr Hobman, aged 43, a fanatical Brighton and Hove Albion supporter and one-time marketing bod with Barclays Bank, joined Proshare two years ago as head of investor services. As such he runs Proshare's highly successful investment club scheme, which numbers nearly 2,500.

"I'm looking forward to it very much. Its a real opportunity to influence social and economic policy," says Tony. Not many captains of industry can claim to be doing that.

I'm sure Tony will be able to negotiate the twists and turns of City politics with the same flair that he brings to the black runs of the French Alps. (Just put the fiver in the post, Tone).

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