Tournaments like the European Championship can make football fans out of everyone. Well, okay, maybe not absolutely everyone, but a lot more people will get into the spirit of the tournament than you’d usually find on the terraces, as the saying goes, on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke.
Come one, come all. This year more than ever we need something to entertain and unite us – and, let’s be honest, sometimes divide us, all in the good-natured spirit of sport. It’s not just the Euros and football where we see this phenomenon playing out, where the pull of the big tournament has the power to convert the neutrals into, at least temporary, fanatics. We see it happening with the Olympics (how much track and field do you watch in non-Olympic years?), Wimbledon and the Six Nations too.
Parallels with lockdown life
I often wonder what becomes of these big-ticket sports fans after the glittering trophies have been awarded and we have all gone back to our normal lives. Do they feel there’s something missing now they’ve had a taste of the thrill and fulfilment that sport can add to their lives? There are parallels here with how we’ve lived our lives through lockdown.
We’ve welcomed many new things into our lives this last year that will stay, like more video calls and home-working. We’ve also embraced new hobbies that have helped get us through these strange months. Now, only time will tell whether these new pastimes remain in our lives or fall by the wayside.
To pick a relevant example, I have collected football shirts for years. I have hundreds of them. What I have noticed over the course of the pandemic is that prices have started to soar. With spare time and spare money, and maybe in a bid to make some connection with the sport they’re missing, more people have started collecting shirts and increased demand has driven the prices up. I’m intrigued as to what will happen when life returns to normal and whether these new buyers will turn into lifelong collectors or sell their shirts and allow the prices to return to where they were pre-pandemic.
Guard against gamification
Many collectors see football shirts as an investment, and that spending money on them will deliver them a return in the long run, if they can bear to part with their collection. There are plenty of similar markets for alternative investments like this – like trainers to pick another sporty example – where supply and demand – rather than their intrinsic value – determines the fluctuating market price.
In a similar way – as a result of a combination of having more time and money on our hands – lockdown has also fuelled a boom in uptake of investing apps, which have gained popularity with their offer of instant and easy access to the stock market. Many commentators have warned about the potential risks of ‘gamification’ of investing, adding concerns that it encourages a short-termist approach that might not be in the individual’s best financial interest.
If we are looking for evidence of why sport and investing should maintain clear boundaries, the recent collapse of betting firm, Football Index, is a case in point. The Football Index mirrored the stock market by allowing customers to buy ‘stock’ in footballers. They would then receive dividends according to how the footballers performed on the pitch, while their share values rose and fell. But the firm went into administration in March, owing a reported £90m to its customers, and had their operating licence suspended by the Gambling Commission. A cautionary tale.
As we come out of lockdown and take stock, many of us might find our financial circumstances or attitudes have changed. It’s always wise to check in with your financial adviser if this is the case as they will be able to adapt your financial plan accordingly and in a way that keeps you on track for your long-term goals.
As for the Euros, I’d like to think that this year’s tournament will ignite and inspire, turning some neutrals into lifelong fans. One thing’s for certain: in around a month’s time, we’ll know the winner and whether, after a year when we’ve all been stuck in our houses, it really will be more appropriate than ever to say it’s coming home…