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‘Our country has been through difficult experiences in terms of unity. Sport — football in particular — has the power to help that. It is a special feeling,’ – England manager Gareth Southgate.
Former England striker Les Ferdinand once said ‘nothing surprises me in football’, but this year’s World Cup in Russia did try. Title-holder Germany failed to make it past the group stage, and both Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo took an early exit in what is likely to be their last chance of bagging the ultimate prize. But one of the biggest surprises may be the faith that has been restored in the England team and the belief that maybe, just maybe, 1966 was not a one-off.
For now, the waistcoats have been put away and the date as to when football is coming home has been postponed, but England fans have never felt more confident in their chances of winning a World Cup in the future following the performance of Gareth Southgate’s team.
The World Cup always encourages spending, and believing you have a shot of winning only spurs this on further. Estimates show that this year’s tournament has encouraged at least £720 million of spending, according to The Centre for Economic & Business Research. With the likes of pubs (such as JD Wetherspoon, Marston's, Fuller Smith & Turner and Greene King), takeaway operators (Just Eat) and kit sellers (Sports Direct) all benefiting, the World Cup may have proven to be a life-saver for the UK’s struggling retail sector.
UK bookmakers cash in as England fans dare to dream
The revival in England’s chances, however, provided more of a boon to bookmakers than any other sector. If you wanted to try and put a price on inspiration, then the gambling industry may be your best bet. At the last World Cup in 2014, when less than 10% of British punters dared betting on England to win at odds as high as 100-1, consumers still wagered around £1 billion on the event. This year, it is estimated as much as £2.5 billion was wagered, with two-thirds of all UK bets backing England ahead of their (unfortunately last) game with Croatia.
If there was one group of fans donning a Croatian checkerboard underneath their Southgate-inspired waistcoat then it was the directors of Ladbrokes-Coral owner GVC Holdings, Paddy Power, and William Hill. While they benefited as England progressed, football coming home would have proven extremely expensive for bookmakers.
The best-case scenario for bookmakers was England making it to the final, drawing the game and then losing in extra time. Draws are already unpopular with people betting on football, and the patriotic emotions that the World Cup can stir-up only exacerbate this. Although England reaching and losing the final would have maximised profits for the bookmakers, they will be happy enough with the team crashing out to Croatia in the semi-finals. The rallying support behind the England team spurred activity, with William Hill reporting nearly 8000 bets being made per minute in the run-up to the Croatia game, a record excluding the Grand National.
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Although estimates vary, England’s exit from the tournament saved UK bookmakers from having to make their largest pay-out in history, at least £100 million, and as much as £200 million to customers. England winning the World Cup would have obviously been far worse: online betting odds comparison service Oddschecker, which works with all the major operators, claimed about 19% of all the bets on football coming home were at odds of over 25-1, as fans started placing bets on England being victorious as far back as February 2015.
But the extra-time goal that dumped Southgate’s men out of the tournament ‘saved us millions upon millions’, a spokesman of Ladbrokes Coral told Thisismoney, adding that England making it to the final would have ‘cost UK bookies around £200 million’. In addition, the head of Paddy Power’s public relations team was reported in The Times as stating that a ‘France or Croatia World Cup win would be a profit-maker for us’.
Either way, the pay-out that was potentially on the cards would have eclipsed the Cheltenham horse racing festival in 2016 (considered one of the worst days ever for bookmakers) when they had to cough up £60 million in single day.
UK bookmakers see share prices rise on England exit
Both Paddy Power Betfair and GVC Holdings are trading higher now than they were at the open on the day of England’s first match against Tunisia on 18 June, but William Hill has lost ground.
All of the UK bookmakers saw their share prices rise following England’s defeat to Croatia. Compared to their opening price on 11 July (the day of the match), both GVC Holdings and William Hill saw their shares rise by as much as 1.9% the following day once investors had the chance to react to the result, while Paddy Power Betfair rose by as much as 2.5%.
GVC shares soar to all-time high as World Cup draws to a close
GVC shares have performed the best throughout the tournament and reached an all-time high of £111.90 days after the England-Croatia result, having opened at £100.85 on the day of England’s first game.