Despite the recent speculation, excitement, elation and hype, in the end and once again, football is ‘not coming home’.
While on the surface I briefly shared the Nation’s surprise and disappointment that the England soccer squad did not make it through to the 2018 World Cup final – not personally being much of a football fan (‘22 overpaid idiots kicking a bag of wind around some grass’ as an old girl friend of mine amusingly summarised the game) – I wasn’t too bothered when the Team dropped-out against Croatia and selfishly with my Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard hat on, quite relieved in truth as England’s participation could have compromised the FOS atmosphere and thrill of the timed shoot-out on Sunday afternoon.
Although it might be foolhardy (or stupid) for me to admit it, I know for a fact that I was not alone with this view, as very many fellow car fans were not disappointed either, even if they wouldn’t confess to it in public. Years of commissioning and analyzing the spectator market research at FOS revealed that in the main the majority of Goodwood visitors were not huge football fans, most favouring rugby, cricket and (unsurprisingly) motorsport instead.
The combination of football and cars has long been a curious and uncomfortable mix. Sure, in recent times, both Vauxhall and Chevrolet have sponsored the sport in Britain, and the extraordinarily well-paid players (and their wives) have done wonders for the sales of cars such as the Bentley Continental GT, Audi R8 and top-specification Range Rovers.
Following the glory of England’s 1966 World Cup victory of Germany, Ford supplied the expectant squad with fleet of white Cortina 1600E Mark 2 saloons for the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, where England lost to Germany, and failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 events, bringing Ford’s support to a swift end.
Beyond this, and pl enty of sport-related vehicle manufacturer support and special edition models for other sports (Land Rover sponsoring rugby, for example, and Peugeot releasing a special limited edition 806 MPV in France with rugby ball-shaped head rests, Volvo, Renault, Land Rover and Maserati supporting sailing, Austin Rover, Peugeot and Opel sponsoring tennis – the latter even selling a special Steffi Graf Corsa in Germany between 1986-89) very few cars to-date have had a strong football association.
The exception to this is the charming Fiat Panda Italia ‘90, an all-white special edition sold in all European markets to celebrate what I am told was arguably the greatest World Cup ever staged (unless you were Gazza!), the 1990 FIFA World Cup, hosted by the Italians. Now rather sought-after (yes, really), the white Panda Italia ‘90 had unique seat trim, a red coach line down its flanks, with the distinctive red, white and green, plus the official ‘Italia 90’ logo on the rear wings.
Fiat GB used none-other than the late 1966 England team captain Bobby Moore to promote the special Panda, the model being fitted with inspired black and white plastic hubcaps resembling footballs. These football hubcaps were often stolen or flew off in period, and amazingly now sell for £100s each if you are lucky enough to find one or four! Fiat even offered a Cabriolet version of the Italia 90 for its domestic Italian market, the first and to-date only ever soft-top Panda officially sold by the Italian automotive giant.
Since the 1990 Fiat, no other car company has deemed an association with football to be appropriate enough to justify a special model. Despite being adored my many millions the world over, perhaps football is just too grass roots (no pun intended!) and not aspirational or glamourous enough to attract the car companies. Or this might just be an own goal.