Football: Fanatics and the rest of us

40% of us don't give a toss about football. Another 35% only care a bit.

Around four in ten English people describe themselves as "not a fan" of football, compared to just 24 per cent who describe themselves as "big fans", according a research note by the bank ING. Everyone else describes themselves as "slight fans", meaning that while football fans are still the majority, it is not as overwhelming as one might think.

The note, titled (ugh) "cup-o-nomics", also attempts to quantify how strong the average English person's desire to see their team winning Euro 2012 is. They asked how much people would be prepared to spend to guarantee an England victory; apparently the average amount is £167. That said, many English people, obviously, wouldn't be prepared to pay anything. Sadly, ING don't give the numbers for England, but Europe-wide, only 33 per cent of people would give money to get a victory, so it seems likely that the actual amount that people prepared to pay would give is probably two or three times the overall average.

But attitudes to money differ depending on how much of it you have. So ING also asked who'd be prepared to give 1 per cent of their income for victory, and found that it shrinks to a die-hard core of just 12 per cent of the country.

That 12 per cent are probably a subset of the fifth of English people who think that Euro 2012 (a contest involving one sport and 16 countries) is more important than the Olympics (a contest involving 26 sports and 204 nations, including the sport and all the countries from Euro 2012).

If you want to track down somewhere where people really don't care, you could to worse than heading to France. That's the only country in the competition where a majority of people – 60 per cent – don't give a toss. ING describes it as the "laggard" of Europe, but I prefer to think of it as a glorious torchbearer, showing the path ahead.

Bored children at a football match. WE KNOW YOUR PAIN. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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