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Euro 2016 and the business of football

Euro 2016 and the business of football

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I’m a bit of a football fan and need to be careful not to find myself getting swept away by these really big international tournaments. Euro 2016 kicks off this week in France, and it will, I’m sure, feature some great drama, freak results, ding-dong battles, wondergoals, and heart-breaking penalty shootouts… doubtlessly involving England.

This year’s edition features 24 teams, 8 more than usual. It means that alongside the powerful giants of European football (Germany, Spain, Italy, France) there are some much smaller, less heralded nations.

Albania (population 2.8m) have qualified for a first-ever appearance at a major men's football tournament. Northern Ireland (population 1.86m) have made the cut for a major tournament for the first time in 30 years. And Wales (population 3.0m) – who last year were rated the 8th best team in the world, above England in the FIFA rankings – are present at a first showpiece event since 1958.

But with a population of just 382,000, the smallest nation to qualify is Iceland. To put that in context, there are about as many people living in Iceland as in Wales’ capital, Cardiff. Elsewhere in the UK, Belfast, Bradford and Bristol are all bigger. For our American friends, here’s a great stat: Iceland, by population, is three-quarters the size of New York’s smallest borough, Staten Island.

Indulge me a little. These nations are the SMEs of European football. Not the biggest names in their sector, not with the biggest wealth or resources. What they do have is strong management, a great team spirit, and some genuine world class elements. They have the relative freedom to innovate – to make the best of what they have. Combined they make a pretty formidable proposition, maximising their resources, and playing to their strengths. These qualities allow them (like your business, perhaps) to compete at the very highest level.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that Iceland, Northern Ireland or Albania will emerge as eventual winners. But these tournaments have a habit of making new superstars, and their players – and perhaps their managers! – may well catch the eye.

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Posted Jun 2016
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