Euro 2012: It’s quiet out there

Talk about football.. or not


The audiences are creeping up, and the country is, exceeding its expectations, so why does it all feel a little … quiet?  Why does it seem that fewer people are really into it this time?   Is it the quality of the football? Is something else distracting us all?  The problem seems to be a dearth of stuff for audiences to talk about.

One reason why football commands such enormous revenues and such a large share of the nation’s collective sporting brain is that it is so eminently talkable.  But Euro 2012 seems to be lacking something to talk about.  At the BBC, we tried to understand what types of news story were more likely to encourage viewers to share with others.  We found that it really helped if they included some of these five key elements: Humour, Heroism, Hubris, Trauma and Scandal.  Or, putting it into Word of Mouth type speech:  How Funny, How did she manage that? How the mighty are fallen, How awful and How dare they

So, the News of the World and Millie Dowler,  MPs expenses, and the recent story concerning Jimmy Carr’s tax affairs managed most of these all at once.  Football normally delivers, week after week – though rarely for the actual play on the field.   So viewers talk about a mixture of wags, refereeing decisions, managerial ins and outs, Sepp Blatter, Richard Key, Joey Barton on Twitter, transfer speculation, and the various works of John Terry and Harry Redknapp..

Euro 2012 hasn’t quite taken off because it has lacked these talkable stories.  So we’ve been left with:

Humour – Wayne Rooney’s haircut, at a pinch, though this is desperate stuff.   There’s barely even a barmy army to amuse us and where’s the clairvoyant squid when we need one.

Heroism – We live in hope, but it’s been understated so far, apart from Theo’s turn against Sweden.

Hubris – The demise of the Dutch team, at a stretch, but they wore their favouritism lightly.  England are being so humble that hubris may be avoided this time, so we await Germany collapsing in a heap (at the hands of Greece?)

Trauma – Is more about genuine tragedy than sport, though fans of eliminated teams may feel genuine pain.  The low expectations may help here.  Death is unusual in football tournaments, and usually reserved for World Cups.

Scandal – Despite forecasts from Panorama, it’s been quiet, as we await the controversial refereeing decision, hooligan stupidity, shocking error or rush of blood by an England player to keep us all entertained.  ‘Premier League player in Hooker Storm’ is more likely.

If it carries on like this, we will have to focus on the actual football, and where’s the fun in that?