The Feelgood Factor

Beckham's goal keeps England in the World Cup - and provides a £100m boost to the economy
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Elation tinged with relief. A single swing of David Beckham's right boot kept alive England's World Cup hopes and ensured a significant boom for the British economy.

Although the team's performance against Ecuador failed to set pulses racing, victory ensured that the country would continue to bask in the feel-good factor inspired by World Cup success.

According to analysts, such as the Centre for Economic and Business Research, at least an extra £100m will be spent in the UK in the six days before the quarter-finals on Saturday, when England will play Portugal.

The British Retail Consortium - which predicts a windfall to business of £1.5bn from the four-week finals - is even more confident. Richard Dodd, its spokesman, said: "We believe an extra £124m will be spend on food and drink for every week England stays in the tournament."

The psychologist Oliver James said the result had prevented football fans from entering a period of mourning for the national game. "Studies of monkeys and humans show that their serotonin levels are raised by increased status," he said. "If someone's status changes for the worse, their serotonin levels fall. So England staying in the World Cup means there will be a rise in people's happiness."

Despite the optimism, there was a depressing angle to England's triumph after 500 fans were arrested in clashes with German supporters over the weekend. The Sports minister, Richard Caborn, described the outbreak of violence as a recurrence of the "thuggery of some decades ago".

An estimated 52,000 English fans were inside the stadium in Stuttgart, where temperatures reached 32C.

Britain's - or rather England's - bars, bookies and shops have much to thank Beckham for. The bookmaker William Hill said his goal was worth up to £50m in turnover to the gambling industry. Its spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "Had Beckham not scored that goal and England been eliminated, betting interest on the World Cup would have dwindled immediately."

The Centre for Economic and Business Research estimates that half of the total spending for the tournament was lavished before the opening match between Germany vs Costa Rica on 9 June, on everything from football merchandise to advertising campaigns. Electronics shops say sales of high definition televisions have trebled. Among the companies which benefit most from a prolonged England participation will be pubs, clubs and bars. During the last World Cup, 8 million Britons spent £50m on alcohol during the first knock-out stage match against Denmark.

Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, explained: "People are happy; they will stay in clubs and pubs to celebrate more. If England manage to get through to the finals, spending might increase from that £100m mark."

If England can finally find their form and lift the trophy itself, the benefits are likely to be even greater. The Treasury says that it has no estimate for the World Cup effect, but a study from the bank ABN Amro says that the GDP of the World Cup victor is boosted by an average of 0.7 per cent.

Although that prospect seemed far off to many watching fans, many England fans streaming out of the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion said the heat had once again stifled England's play.

"It was hard enough work just getting to the ground, I can't imagine how tough it was playing 90 minutes of football down there," said Tom Makins, 29, a carpenter from Grantham, who got his ticket after a friend's wife went into labour.

David Poole, 43, an accountant from Bognor Regis, said: "I'm delighted we're through after what was a poor performance. We were lacklustre and I think the line-up and tactics were wrong for an English team."

Indeed, few commentators expected England to make such hard work of getting past the 400-1 outsiders 29 places beneath them in the Fifa rankings.

While the England head coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, and his team won a reprieve, hundreds of England fans had already been condemned for their anti-social behaviour before kick-off. Police in Stuttgart appeared to be less tolerant of abusive England fans than their counterparts in the German cities where the team has previously played. At least 500 England supporters were arrested over the weekend before kick-off, most for disorderly behaviour.

The picturesque Schlossplatz, where 60,000 fans watched Germany's match against Sweden, witnessed throwing of bar chairs and tables, scuffles and obscene chants.

Of those arrested at the weekend, 375 were released and have been banned from the city centre, although not from the game, and 122 remained in custody and will not be released until this morning.

"Perhaps as many as 500 individuals on Saturday drank continuously through the day, standing in the same spot," said Stephen Thomas, the British officer in charge of the anti-hooligan operation. "As the day goes on their behaviour degenerates. This is what we all saw yesterday. I don't consider these people real England supporters."