Euro 2020

In this original podcast series from Aston University, journalist Steve Dyson will speak to various academics from across the University’s three colleges: College of Business and Social Sciences (BSS), College of Health and Life Sciences (HLS) and College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) about the business and science of football.

EURO 2020 is the 16th UEFA European Championship, and it is being held across the continent for the first time in the competition's 60-year history to celebrate the competition’s diamond anniversary.

The tournament was originally scheduled from 12 June to 12 July 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and rescheduled for 11 June to 11 July 2021.

Steve Dyson has been finding out all there is to know about the business and science of football, from the potential of an economic recovery during the first major sporting event since the Coronavirus pandemic first hit, to making a champion, the sustainability of huge sports events, coping with success and the psychology of penalties.

Episode #1: How EURO 2020 can boost economic recovery

Joining Steve for Episode One is Dr Johan Rewilak, Dr Danny Fitzpatrick and Dr Robert Thomas. They discuss the benefits of holding EURO 2020 across the continent, and whether it'll bring an economic spike in a world still living through Coronavirus.

Dr Rewilak currently teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in economics and finance at Aston University and explains how 'mega sporting events' can help economies, albeit in limited ways. He explains how EURO 2020 could have some positive economic impacts, but how they will be quite trivial, and only in certain areas. Dr Rewilak also highlights the 'gross domestic happiness' factor, which can provide a short-term lift to the winning nation's economy!

Dr Thomas explains UEFA has slimmed down the chances of any positive economic effects by holding EURO 2020 before COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted. He feels a delay would have been much better for the cities involved. Find out what he has to say about the huge, monolithic UEFA brand for not caring for the wider football community.

Dr Fitzpatrick looks at the growing cost of policing sports events, and how EURO 2020 could also have negative and worrying security legacies, especially because of the pandemic. But does he think there will be small, localised economic boosts?

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Episode #2: The sustainability of huge sports events

In this episode, Steve chats to Professor Ed Sweeney, Dr Graeme Hayes and Dr Sotos Generalis about how green and sustainable huge sporting events are.

Professor Sweeney has reason to believe EURO 2020 will be the greenest sports event ever – but not necessarily for the reasons people may think. He gives a breakdown of the sustainability aspects of logistics, supply chains, and freight transport and people. He highlights how the last 15 months has taught his sector more than they would usually learn in 15 years down to the pandemic. He reckons Euro 2020 offers even more learning potential, with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.

Dr Graeme Hayes doubts all the sports authorities' green claims, and feels strongly that mega sporting events are “conning the world” with slogans like ‘going green’. Dr Hayes also discusses the need for community involvement for real sustainability.

Dr Generalis brings his extensive maths knowledge to the table, looking at the event with his ‘turbulence and angles’ approach, with plenty of mentions of work in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Episode #3: Winning and losing: The fear of failure

In this episode, Steve chats to Professor Gina Rippon and Dr Carl Senior about how top athletes handle the ‘fear of failure’ and how losing can actually help on the road to winning.

Professor Gina Rippon showcases various psychological theories that can be applied to sport, including how our “brains wired are to make us want to belong to the group”, which accentuates “social emotions of shame and embarrassment” if we get things wrong. She also cites the 'ironic process', 'stereotype threat', 'error evaluate systems', 'cognitive emotional burden' and 'inhibitory systems'.  If you’d like to find out more about Professor Rippon’s work, you can find her book The Gendered Brain: The new neuroscience that shatters the myth here.

Dr Carl Senior looks at this episode's topics from a different perspective. He highlights our need for 'certificates of achievement', 'media performance metrics', the 'imposter syndrome' and 'obsessive presenteeism'. Dr Senior also looks at how those metrics can be applied to other sports like rugby, boxing and gymnastics.

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Episode #4: Cliff-edge decisions: The psychology of penalties

In this episode, Steve chats to Dr Shehzad Naroo and Dr Lou Atkinson about penalty shootouts, and why the occasion, time of taking and psychology can play a part in succeeding in them.

Dr Shehzad Naroo is an optometrist who co-produced a research paper on penalties and penalty shoot-outs post-1997 ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Dr Naroo found penalties were taken in 25% of matches and converted 68% of the time, and the chances of winning doubled if they were scored. The chances of losing tripled if missed. Dr Naroo also gives his views on takers and goalkeepers' techniques, including the visual clues they work on, the intimidation used, and his thoughts on the shoot-out orders. You can read Dr Naroo’s research piece HERE.

Dr Lou Atkinson cited Dr Pippa Grange, the psychologist who worked at the FA until the end of 2019, a period when England won a shoot-out against Columbia at the 2018 World Cup. Dr Atkinson explains various psychological theories including 'paralysis by analysis', 'hastening & hiding', 'action bias’ and how 'emotional contagions' spread pride or shame across teams during shoot-outs. You can read more about Dr Atkinson’s citations HERE and HERE.

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Psychology BSc

Optometry BSc

Episode #5: Making a champion: nature or nurture?

In this episode, Steve chats to Professor Gavin Woodhall and Dr James Brown about how far our genetic makeup can take us in the journey to becoming an elite athlete, and how attitude makes it all possible.

Professor Woodhall looks at the question from a pharmacology and neuroscience angle. He explains the chemistry of the brain, and how neurones are wired to talk to each other. He references the importance of genetic muscle fibres but focuses on how high cognitive brain loads enable feet skills and positioning due to brain synapse connections, "pruned to be more efficient", with proprioceptors unconsciously guiding movement. 

Dr James Brown looks at the question from a ‘bioscience’ perspective. He explains that there have to be genetic and physical aspects but that these take years to refine, quoting research that ‘it takes 10,000 hours training over ten years to become elite’. He looks at family links' advantages and cites interesting monozygotic twin research that disentangles nature/nurture elements. He talks about well-known sports examples about science - Tiger Woods, Robbie Fowler, Usain Bolt, Conor McGregor, Lennox Lewis and various cricketers. He mentions the YIPS (when elite sports stars start losing their edge) and how this can be overcome.

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Psychology BSc

Biochemistry BSc

Biological Sciences BSc

Episode #6: Coping with success

In this episode, Steve chats to Dr Tahmineh Tayebi and Professor Andy Lymer and the social media abuse and financial responsibility that comes with being a top footballer and athlete. 

Dr Tahmineh Tayebi looks at the linguistics of social media abuse. She starts by understanding the fans' perspective. They've invested time, money and trust in clubs/players and feel entitled to opinions/criticism - but the issue is the language used.  

Explicit and hateful language - often racist and/or violent - is the easiest to cope with, as it can be banned. But there's lots of "clever" offensive language which breaks no laws and is difficult to spot but still hurtful.  

Tahmineh discusses loose boundaries between freedom of expression and bullying. She also points to the recent social media boycott and the BT Hope United project.  

Professor Andy Lymer looks at the issues faced by wealthy players. He cited interesting research showing 2/5 of football players are bankrupt within 5 years of retirement, while 1/3 divorce in the same period. Players have short careers and either need to earn enough to last them with good advice or need to do something else after playing.  

However, Professor Lymer says many still quickly burn through their fortunes. He notes Britain is bad at educating people in dealing with money, especially in 'decumulation' - e.g. making it last, planning savings for pensions and downsizing. He points to various government-backed schemes/helplines which can help anyone. The big issue is top footballers attracting long queues of people wanting to advise their slice. Getting the right, trustworthy advice is the problem. In football itself, big clubs are guiding young, vulnerable players as part of their development, and various players' organisations also help, such as a 24-hour helpline. But the stats show us it's not enough, and Andy calls for the sector to do more in education. 

If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and think: ‘I’d like a career in that’, then head to our website – and have a browse of some of the courses that have featured in this episode.

They are:

Accounting and Finance BSc

Forensic Linguistics MA

Accounting and Business (various)

If you’re interested in finding out more about the academics you’ve heard during this series, follow their linked names or head over to Twitter and make sure you give them a follow. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with this series, you can follow @AstonPress. We’ll be posting throughout Euro 2020, and we’d love your company along the way.

Notes to Editors

For media inquiries in relation to any of the episodes in this podcast series, or to speak to the academics involved, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44)7446 910063 or email:

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston University was named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian and the University’s full time MBA programme has been ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking. The Aston MBA has been ranked 12th in the UK and 85th in the world. The University also has TEF Gold status in the Teaching Excellence Framework.