Euro 2020: England vs Italy final to be ‘most watched TV event in UK history’

Fans expected to buy more than 7 million pints during Sunday’s game

Peter Stubley
Saturday 10 July 2021 18:25
Baddiel and Skinner perform ‘Three Lions’ on The Last Leg

England's game against Italy in the Euro 2020 final could become the most watched TV event in UK history - bringing with it a major spike in demand for electricity as fans turn the kettle on or grab a beer from the fridge.

More than 33 million people are expected to tune in at home, in the pub or even at work to cheer as the national team attempts to win a major tournament for the first time in 55 years.

The total audience figure is expected to surge past the 26.7 million seen during the semi-final against Denmark on ITV on Wednesday, which was the largest for a single TV channel.

It is also likely to top the 32.1 million viewers for Princess Diana's funeral in 1997 and the record of 32.3 million for the 1966 World Cup final, which was shown on both BBC and ITV. Ladbrokes is offering 4/5 odds on a record TV audience.

Meanwhile England fans will buy more than 7.1 million pints during the game, according to the British Beer and Pub Association - although many of those drinks are likely to end up flying through the air if England scores or wins the tournament.

Supermarkets are preparing for boom in sales ahead of the match, with an estimated £750 million expected to be withdrawn from cash machines, according to ATM network Link.

Meanwhile Employers are considering giving staff a lie-in on Monday morning to help sore heads recover, while some schools have already said they will allow pupils to start later on Monday.

The final is due to finish by 10pm if it ends in normal time but could end up holding the nation's attention until closer to 11pm if it goes to penalties.

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said it expects a two gigawatt (GW) spike in electricity demand the match, the equivalent to around 1.1 million kettles boiling at the same time.

It is however unlikely to beat the all-time record surge of 2.8 GW seen at the end of the penalty shoot-out when England lost to Germany in 1990's World Cup semi-final. Gavin Brown, acting head of national control for the ESO, said "People consume content through the internet, via satellite and on-demand, so there isn't one single "end time" anymore. But we do anticipate one of the biggest TV picks-ups that we have seen in recent years as the nation comes together behind the England team."

Fans have been preparing for the big event by plastering their homes with red and white St George's flags, prompting Boris Johnson to jump on the bandwagon by posing in front of a bunting-strewn Downing Street. Flag makers have been working extra hours since the semi-final to cope with the demand.

Residents on Wales Street in Oldham, Greater Manchester, have renamed their road England Street, erecting a new red-and-white sign above the original.

And one couple will incorporate the final into their wedding celebrations, having booked the day a year-and-a-half ago.

Bride Lois Gardner, 27, said: "Although we hope for a win, the historic moment of this final is enough for us to have an incredible day no matter the outcome. We opted for a screen a couple of months ago when we knew the final was happening. We always hoped we would make it to the final but didn't really expect it."

Singer Chris Farlowe, who topped the charts with "Out of Time" when England won the World Cup, said he would be one of those watching the match on TV.

"I shall be glued in my seat here, I hope they do it because we need a little bit of luck and happiness in this country," the 80-year-old said. "I hope it happens."

Englishman Daniel Furniss, 41, his Italian wife Carlotta, 28, and their two children Francesca, 6, and Federico, 4, are supporting both teams in the final.

Daniel, a schoolteacher, said: "We're super, super excited. We're really big football fans.

"I'll be for England, and then the wife will be rooting for Italy and the kids will be going mental for both. Win or lose for England I'll be gutted in a sense but then happy for the kids and the wife."

Additional reporting by agencies

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