Normal life cancelled as nation holds breath

It’s coming home! England’s World Cup campaign is a rare moment of national unity. © Getty

Does society need more events that bring us all together? England face Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Saturday, and half the country is set to tune in for the crunch match.

England has gone football mad. Come Saturday, an estimated 30 million people will tune in to watch the Three Lions take on Sweden. Airport terminals are being fitted with big screens, cricket matches have been postponed, and happy couples due to marry are facing mass guest dropouts. At 3pm, roads and stations will lie deserted as a nation gathers in nervous anticipation around the nearest TV.

On what is forecast to be a beautiful summer’s day, the economy could get a £24 million boost as an extra eight million pints of beer are sold in packed-out pubs. Marks & Spencer even reported a 35% rise in waistcoat sales this week as shoppers flock to emulate the sharp style of manager Gareth Southgate. Should England make it to the final, fans are expected to spend a huge £2.72 billion, including £62 million on barbecues.

Only Wimbledon has resisted World Cup fever. Organisers of the renowned tennis tournament have firmly refused to screen any football.

It is not often that the country gets to join together in celebration. For decades, England’s World Cup campaigns have been defined by false hope and early defeats. This time around, a three-week heatwave and a young, fresh England squad have got the country smiling.

Elsewhere, it can seem like there’s not much to unite us. The royal family may be a central part of British identity, but two thirds of the public said they weren’t interested in Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in May. At a local level, only 50% of Brits know their neighbours’ names, and last year a study found the UK is the most individualistic society in the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn thinks more public holidays could bring us together, as England has the fewest of any country in Europe. He’s calling for an extra bank holiday if England win the World Cup, and four more UK-wide holidays to celebrate patron saints’ days.

Does society need more events that bring us all together?

Pride and passion

Desperately, say some. Having more opportunities to come together as a nation would improve our wellbeing and boost our understanding of others. It would be an antidote to a world in which we’ve become obsessed with ourselves and forgotten the value of community. Above all, it’s great fun to have an excuse for a celebration. Only killjoys would say otherwise.

No, others reply. What makes this tournament special is that it came as a surprise. We’ve had uncommonly good weather and a likeable England team who seem determined to overturn history. Government-enforced fun would make us boring conformists and set us on a path down Chinese-style collectivism. The feeling of togetherness must come organically.

You Decide

  1. Do you think the World Cup has brought England together?
  2. Does a sense of community make people happier?


  1. What days should we celebrate? Use your imagination and come up with three ideas for new public holidays.
  2. Young people are now renting housing and changing jobs more than ever. Research how housing and employment have changed over time and write a one page essay on the statement: “England is becoming more and more divided.”

Some People Say...

“There’s nothing quite like a World Cup.”

Michael Owen

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
England will play Sweden at 3pm on Saturday. If the Three Lions progress to the semi-finals, they will face either Croatia or Russia. The winner of that match will then meet with France, Uruguay, Brazil or Belgium. Brazil are favourites to win the tournament with odds of 5/2. England are have favourable odds of 4/1 to reach the final.
What do we not know?
Whether England will be able to overcome Sweden. Historically, England have a mixed record against the Swedes. Out of 24 games, England have won eight times, lost seven times and drawn nine times. Their last match was in 2012, when the Swedes beat England 4-2. Fortunately this England side don’t seem to be burdened by history, judging by their win on penalties over Colombia.

Word Watch

Gareth Southgate
England’s manager has become an unlikely style icon for his pitch-side waistcoats.
£2.72 billion
The Centre for Retail Research has compiled data on how much the country will spend if England make it to the final. £1.11 billion would be spent on food and drink.
Early defeats
England has not made it to the quarter-final of a major tournament since 2006. If they beat Sweden, it will be our first semi-final since 1990.
Two thirds
In a YouGov poll of the British public, 66% said they were not interested in the royal wedding.
The Eurobarometer survey by the European Commission found more than twice the number of Britons favoured “individualism” over “solidarity” compared with the European average. An individualist puts their own needs before those of the community.
Patron saints’ days
St David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales, is celebrated on March 1; St Patrick of Ireland on March 17; St George of England on April 23; and St Andrew of Scotland on November 30.


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