It’s always hard re-adjusting to normal life after a major championship, but this week has been an absolute kick in the sack. Not only did we manage to lose after a completely dominant first half, but we also chose the biggest possible stage to show the world we’ve still got a load of racists and thugs in our game.
Just for good measure, I also managed to catch Covid, which was almost certainly from watching the game in a busy pub. I’m feeling pretty rough as I observe the best weather of the year from inside my little isolation chamber – please bear this in mind if this summary piece seems a bit bleak.
As this is supposed to be a blog about responsible gambling, I’ll start with my betting efforts.. A quick scan through my online account history tells me that I wagered £142 (mostly on full time results and any time scorers) and had £167 of net winnings, so theoretically profitable.
I don’t like to endorse gambling companies, but I’m going to tip my hat to Bet365, who showered me with free bets throughout the event. They were all offers with clear value proposition, minimal smallprint and no scabby cross-selling to harder forms of betting. There was an early accumulator offer, but otherwise they get my responsible gambling seal of approval.
In total I received £65 of promotional money, so when you factor that in, it was not really a plus EV performance.
I presume the intense program of retention/reactivation offers was an experimental attempt to build a habit of frequency. I doubt the sticking power of free bets, but my goodwill towards the company is at an all time high. Perhaps the offers are a loss leader and they’ve worked out they can afford £5-10 a time just to get folks logging in. Seems a stretch though, I’d love to see their data.
I also have to own up to my Calcutta losses, which were around £130. It was more than I wanted to invest, but I enjoyed every second of it and regret nothing. You couldn’t ask for a finer group of degenerates to gamble with. I will be doing the auction format again for the Qatar World Cup next winter.
Finally, I came out with £60 profit from my sweepstake pick of England. So, my best result came from the competition that was complete and utter dumb luck. Once you offset that score, I’m down a very respectable £45. I feel like I got hundreds of pounds in entertainment value though, so I’m going to declare myself a utility winner.
It’s a shame we didn’t win the tournament though.
For that, I can’t help but blame Gareth Southgate. I love what he has done for this England team, and I will gladly support him through the next few major championships – but I’ll have my hopes firmly in check. His man management, diplomacy and selection policy are truly admirable. But I don’t think we are going to win any tournaments while he is in charge.
In the glow of a first final in my lifetime, it’s easy to forget how our journey played out. We were truly awful in the group stages, and poor against Germany for the first hour. We then battered a poor and tired Ukraine team before labouring to a barely deserved win against Denmark.
The only truly stand out period of play for me was the first half of the Italy game, when we produced some stunning football. From halftime onwards, we were poor again, and ultimately we deserved to lose that match.
Tactically, Southgate seems clueless to me. We have some of the most exciting attacking players in the world, and his instinct is to field as many defensive players as possible. Not a game went by when I thought the players on the pitch would beat the guys on the bench over 90 minutes.
We had a phenomenally fortunate run to the final. It wasn’t dissimilar to the way our draw panned out in 2018. It’s no coincidence we got so far on both occasions – we were mostly playing mediocre teams. That luck will run out at some point, and then we will have to beat good teams.
Unless Southgate learns to get his best players on the pitch in their best formation, with the right attitude, we will lose again. Perhaps even more unforgivably, he has resurrected the career of Atomic Kitten.
I don’t think I can add too much to the subject of racism. The guys who have been subjected to the worst abuse seem to be handling it admirably. Presumably because they’ve had to deal with it their whole lives and were already braced for the worst.
There are encouraging signs that the authorities are taking the racist activity seriously. The perpetrators must be penalised in the toughest possible ways. I fear that taking a knee has lost its impact, so perhaps harsh public punishment will make people re-think their negative attitudes and behaviours.
Perhaps more shocking to me (because it’s naïve to think we’d solved the problem of discrimination), were the actions of people breaking and bribing their way into Wembley Stadium to watch the game.
I don’t see these guys as cheeky chancers, blagging a harmless win over the system. I see them as nasty, thoughtless thieves, ruining our chances of hosting future major sporting events. If I were a governing body, I would be very reluctant to award any games to a country whose fans cannot be trusted or controlled.
And speaking of horrible people attending the games, I was disgusted to see nine MPs accepting hospitality tickets from gambling firms. These perks are nothing short of bribery. Elected officials have no business accepting this kind of gift, because there is a clear conflict of interest.
When the review of UK gambling laws is published later this year, what are the chances they support any further regulation of the industry? Almost none. I’ll do my best to hold them to account when the time comes.