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.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.