“You Let Your Country Down,” roared the Sun, Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper, on the morning after England’s exit from the World Cup.
England’s players returned to Heathrow, their reputation in tatters, their international future in doubt. But those were the least of the problems confronting the team’s administrators.
England’s Football Association is financially stretched and without a permanent chairman. The FA is on it third chief executive in under a year and its bid to host the 2018 World Cup has suffered setbacks. Now, the future of Fabio Capello, England’s Italian coach, is in doubt. So this is hardly an opportune time be talking to sponsors about backing the England team.
A four-year deal with Nationwide, the independent British mutual that has backed the team for almost a dozen years, expires at the end of the World Cup. All the signs are that England’s humiliating 4-1 defeat to Germany on Sunday has shifted the market against the seller and in favour of the buyer.
“The FA has been in a very unstable situation for a long time,” says Tim Crow of Synergy, a sponsorship consultancy. “The reality is they will take a price for the England team sponsorship rather than set the price.”
World Cup failure has already come at a price for France, which failed to make it past the tournament’s group stage. Internal feuding, which resulted in a players’ boycott, led to the team’s sponsors demanding explanations and Crédit Agricole pulling their World Cup advertisements.
For sponsors, it is all part of the risk that goes with backing sports teams and individuals. “You have got to be pretty pragmatic about it and realise that there are going to be good times and there are going to be bad times,” says Chris Hull head of sponsorship at Nationwide, which has been in talks with the FA for some months about renewing their deal.
“Yes, the Germany result was incredibly disappointing for fans and for everybody involved, but we have enjoyed an incredible amount of exposure that has been wall-to-wall – we have been a part of that. Our research tells us that people appreciate the support we give to the national team.”
Some reports this month suggested the FA rejected one renewal offer from Nationwide because it wanted more money.
But it is not all gloom for the English FA on the sponsorship front.
Carlsberg has signed up as a beer sponsor for the next four years and McDonald’s is on board until 2013. Nigel Currie of Brand Rapport, another sponsorship consultancy, says the bottom line for many national team sponsors is that the team qualifies for major tournaments.
“As long as England qualify, the level of exposure and interest they get in a World Cup period is massive,” he says. “Everybody wants a part of it.”
It is with good reason that Nationwide’s England sponsorship strapline reads: “We’re in it together”.
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