Economic, political dividends from soccer look slim for France

Fri Jun 10, 2016 10:26am EDT
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By Michel Rose and Simon Carraud

PARIS (Reuters) - Shaken by Islamist attacks and beset by strikes, France is hoping the "feel good factor" of a successful Euro 2016 soccer tournament will fire up a tentative economic recovery, although the direct impact will be short lived.

France's economy has shown signs of renewed vigor in the last 18 months after three years of near stagnation, growing 1.3 percent in 2015 and confounding expectations in the first quarter with a 0.6 percent growth spurt.

But scenes of uncollected rubbish piling up in the streets of Paris, canceled trains, pickets and the specter of flight cancellations as Air France pilots stop work are spoiling the efficient, prosperous image the government was hoping to project.

As he watches the opening France-Romania match at the Stade de France stadium on Friday, President Francois Hollande, a keen soccer fan, will also certainly be hoping a winning French team will give his dismal popularity ratings a desperately needed fillip.

"It can showcase 'things are getting better'," Sport Minister Patrick Kanner told Reuters, referring to Hollande's televised assertion that has become a mantra repeated by ministers and mocked by opponents.

In pure financial terms, the windfall France can expect from the month-long tournament is relatively modest, however.

A study by Limoges University, commissioned by European soccer's governing body UEFA, put the net injection of foreign funds into the economy, including tickets bought by tourists and organization spending, at 1.27 billion euros ($1.43 billion).

That is about 0.05 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), nothing more than a "flash in the pan" on the scale of one quarter, according to economist Nathalie Henaff of Limoges University.   Continued...

File photo of a Paris tour boat which makes its way along the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower on a sunny spring day in Paris, France, May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo