Sean O'Grady: Economy won't win even if football does come home

Related Topics

Would hosting the 2018 World Cup be in the national interest? It is hard to be definitive, but talk of a boost to the economy should be taken with a pinch of salt. There are few, if any, instances of major international sporting events (or celebrations such as royal weddings or jubilees) turning economic tides, either at the time or in the longer term. England's heroic 1966 Wembley win was followed 18 months later by an economic crisis and devaluation of sterling. By contrast, football failure in the 1980s was accompanied by economic revival.

But some events seem to bring benefits. Euro '96, hosted here, brought 280,000 visitors and journalists in, adding £120m to the economy. Other events – notably the Olympics – can have the opposite effect. It took Montreal 20 years to pay off its C$1.6bn "Big O" stadium. But the 1988 Seoul games made $300m for the South Koreans. Beijing was worth perhaps $30m – useful enough but a drop in the ocean in a $9,000,000,000,000 economy.

And that is the point about all such "specials": the numbers sound big, but they pale into insignificance when set against normal economic activity. This is especially true in large economies such as the UK; if the Olympics or the World Cup ever made it to, say, Burkina Faso, they might have a transformative effect. For the UK in 2018, that is not so.

Stefan Szymanski, Professor of economics and director of the Sports Business Network Research Centre at Cass Business School and one of the world's leading experts in "soccernomics", assesses the economic impact of the World Cup coming to the UK as follows: "In a nutshell, as a rough approximation, nothing." Professor Szymanski says as many tourists will be put off visiting the UK as will be attracted by the football. "We won't build much – we already have the stadiums – and we won't generate much extra income from tourists, as England already has large numbers of tourist visitors in the summer. Almost as many will be put off coming to England by the event – overcrowding, high prices, security fears – as would come for it."

London authorities have already warned residents in the capital to avoid using public transport during the 2012 Olympics, implying a loss of billions of pounds, probably far in excess of the games' immediate benefits. Apart from the regenerative effects of new building works and sports facilities, the usual calculus to be applied to royal weddings and other specials applies: extra sales of barbecues, the latest TVs, beer, pizzas and tat are offset by the loss of work done on days off, skiving and from hangovers. And no economist can measure the effect of improved "morale".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas