CONFIDENCE in France's football team has hit such a low that two stores are offering free televisions to customers if les bleus win the World Cup.
Just 4% believe that France will win the tournament according to a survey for national radio channel RTL and sporting newspaper l’Equipe.
Even team sponsors Carrefour have offered to reimburse the cost of widescreen TVs bought in May if the team win and 25% or 50% off for the team getting to the semi-final or final.
Electric store Saturn has also pledged to refund TVs and computers in the event that a French captain lifts the cup.
“The amounts which could be reimbursed are very high,” admitted one Carrefour manager who added that they had taken out special insurance. However for Carrefour – the biggest seller of televisions in France – the run-up to the World Cup is always a chance for big sales (typically 20 - 50% more than usual) and this was a chance to shift even more.
For Saturn, a subsidiary of a German cash and carry group Metro, the stunt will have helped them boost their profile in France.
The l’Equipe survey had just one positive note - only 25% of French thought the team would be knocked out in the first round, as happened in Euro 2008. Support for les bleus has been low since this performance.
The retention of Raymond Domenech as manager following that was controversial. This cup will be his last chance to redeem himself – a successor, Laurent Blanc, has already been named.
In a survey for Le Parisien only 49% said that they “quite liked” the team or “liked them a lot,” while 46% did not like them much or not at all.
They were most popular among the under-30s where positive opinions rose to 57%.
UEFA president Michel Platini said in Le Journal du Dimanche “apart from [Thierry] Henry, who has already proved that he is an exceptional player, they have everything to prove.”
Optimists will be hoping the team can get back some of the shine they showed in the 2006 World Cup, when they reached the finals against rivals Italy before captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off for head-butting an Italian player and France lost in a penalty shoot-out. France last won in 1998.
The online gambling market is expected to be legalised just days before the start of the tournament in South Africa on June 11.
La Française des Jeux has held the French monopoly on legal gambling on sports events (apart from horse racing, run by the PMU), including on the internet but this will be changed under the new law.