FA faces £10m loss if England miss Euro 2008 party

Click to follow
The Independent Football

England's probable failure to qualify for Euro 2008 will cost the Football Association an estimated £10m. This equates to about five per cent of the FA's annual income. The organisation is confident, however, that it can continue to meet its payments on Wembley, and even fill the stadium for friendlies.

The £10m is the estimated merchandising loss, the potential of which is evident from the 20,000 shirts sold by the Rugby Football Union this month. The FA does not actually make much money from competing in tournaments, with most of the income spent on travel, accommodation and players' bonuses. More positively, a new overseas television deal is about to be announced which will dwarf the present £45m contract. England's absence would not affect the sponsorship and domestic television deals that extend to 2010 and 2012 respectively. By the time they come up for renegotiation minds will be focused on the 2010 World Cup.

The FA believes the "Wembley factor" will continue to shift tickets at the national stadium for some time yet. The 53,000 England members are likely to be given the chance to buy more tickets – they are currently allowed to apply for one each match – while 17,000 tickets are already sold to Club Wembley (the notorious bank of red seats usually left empty when the second half starts). Even so, it may need the appointment of a high-profile new manager to fill the ground for the February friendly against Switzerland.

Should England fail to qualify they are likely to undertake a two-match tour of the United States as they did in 2005, playing the US and a third nation. Asia and South America are regarded as too far, especially as England have to fulfil two Wembley dates. That demand means they are unlikely to play on the West Coast despite the Beckham factor, but the tour, which would offset some of the losses from failing to qualify, would precede Euro 2008, partly to give the players a decent post-season break but also to maximise revenue by avoiding a clash with TV coverage.

An FA insider did concede, however, that failure to reach Austria and Switzerland would have a severe impact in terms of the brand and morale within the organisation. It will also hit England's seeding when it comes to the qualification draw for the 2012 European Championship.

It is not just the FA which will be affected. Breweries and publicans will have been despairing after Wednesday night's match, in the host countries as well as at home. On the other hand it was an excellent result for English cricket, which may have the sporting spotlight to itself for large parts of next summer.

For England's footballers there is the awful prospect of watching Greece and Romania playing in the finals on television while they ponder their holidays.

"It'd be a disaster not to qualify and we're all really hurt," Joe Cole said. "What can we do? We've got to pick ourselves up but it's out of our hands now. Football's a harsh game sometimes, especially at this level, and four minutes has changed everything completely."

He added: "We had the chances to go 2-0 up and there's not much more to say really. The only thing we can do now is try to put it into perspective. It's going to be a difficult few weeks, but we're paid to be professional and get on with it. It was hard for us in Israel [England drew 0-0 in their qualifier], and our fate is in their hands in a couple of weeks' time. I'm gutted."

Paul Robinson echoed his team-mate. "You would like to think Israel will be as resolute as they were against England," he said. "You would hope so, but as I say it's difficult when you are depending on other teams when we've not done it ourselves. We have got a game against Croatia and we have got to do a job, get a result and hope the results go our way. We have to still believe. As we have seen, five minutes can change a football match. Russia have got to go to a couple of difficult places and get results."

On Russia's second goal, which Steven Gerrard suggested Robinson would feel "disappointed" at conceding, the Tottenham keeper said: "The shot came in – I just managed to get a hand on it but not a strong enough hand and it fell in the middle. I almost got the rebound as well. I tried to [get it round the post]."