World Cup is popular in Canada
Canadians getting kick out of World Cup
By DAN RALPH , Canadian Press
Thursday, June 22, 2006 – Page S6
Canada may not have a team entered but that hasn't stopped millions of Canadians from being bitten by the World Cup bug, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by Decima Research and provided exclusively to Canadian Press yesterday, indicates more than seven million Canadian adults are interested in the tournament, which began June 9 in Germany and concludes July 9.
"I think this absolutely speaks to a bright future for soccer in Canada," said Bruce Anderson, the chief executive officer of Decima Research, a public opinion and marketing research company. "The World Cup is an international spectacle, a sport that people seem to find increasingly appealing.
"The thing about the long-term potential is if you look at the nature of the audience, you see young, urban, higher-income, more highly educated people. . . . Those demographics are obviously going to be quite appealing to advertisers and they'll be more inclined, I think, to get behind the game in the future."
The poll found 23 per cent of those surveyed said they were "somewhat interested" in the tournament while 15 per cent were "very interested."
Decima said its figures, applied to the country as a whole, suggest seven million Canadian adults are interested in the World Cup.
Decima polled 1,023 adults by telephone from June 16 to June 18. Its results, when considered as a reflection of countrywide attitudes, are accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Television ratings suggest World Cup interest is on the rise.
The Globe and Mail reported this week that TSN averaged 426,000 viewers a game while Rogers Sportsnet drew 343,000 fans through the first week of games carried.
The last time World Cup games were carried during the day in Canada was 1998, and the average audience then was 259,000 on TSN.
"I think these numbers suggest interest in soccer is growing," Anderson said. "If we look at how many people say they're hockey fans, and we find that's about 40 per cent of the public, these numbers suggest soccer has had a growing fan base within Canada."
Earl Cochrane of the Canadian Soccer Association was pleased to hear details about the poll, but was cautious in his interpretation of the results.
"I think it says far more about the appeal of the game worldwide than it does about the interest in Canada," he said. "I think we'll see the support we have for soccer in Canada next year when we host the under-20 World Cup. I think it [poll] is an indication the game in Canada is growing but I think the World Cup is also an event that transcends sport a bit."
He said participation in soccer is growing each year, with the majority of participants being under the age of 12.
"Ten years down the road we could have an enormous base of people who grew up playing soccer and loving it much like we have with hockey and that will definitely help the state of soccer in Canada," Cochrane said.
Not surprisingly, the biggest Canadian World Cup fans are men under the age of 25 but also those who have higher incomes and more education. Students, however, are the most enthusiastic group, according to the poll.
Isaac Ling, a 17-year-old high school student from Toronto, would seem to support that finding. Ling, sporting a yellow Brazil jersey, was trying to sell pals Basil Metcalfe, 16, and Robert Allen, 17, on the virtues of buying such a shirt as the three sifted through various World Cup gear at a downtown Toronto sporting goods store.
"Brazil is going to smoke everyone," Ling boasted. "Brazil all the way."
Brazil, the defending World Cup champion, sits atop Group F with an unblemished 2-0 record and has secured a spot in the second round.
Allen, however, isn't so sure.
"I watched Spain win [a 3-1 decision over Tunisia on Monday] and they looked like they could be a dangerous team," he said.
The Spanish are definitely a World Cup contender, having already qualified for the next round after two consecutive victories to stand first in Group H.
Canadians surveyed were divided when asked which team they wanted to see win. The poll suggested 15 per cent supported Brazil while 13 per cent favoured England.