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
Show Hide image

Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

0800 7318496