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Opinion

No value in backing PIGS

‘Know your customer’ doesn’t only apply to banks. It counts for bookmakers too. Paddy Power certainly does.

Early for a meeting at Canary Wharf, Euromoney wanders into a Paddy Power outlet. Full of sharp-suited traders taking a break from gambling with your money to gamble with their own, the shop buzzes with excited chatter. Posters on the walls display a series of special bets being promoted. Euromoney’s eye is drawn to the PIGS special, inviting the crowd of bankers to back Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain to triumph that night.

The sickening thought arises that we have missed a key eurozone summit. Then it dawns that the bets are for the final qualifying round for the Euro 2012 football tournament.

A couple of City boys are discussing the tight odds on what they believe is a sure-fire win double on France and Germany, two of the continent’s football, as well as economic and political, powerhouses. As they wander off to place their stakes, Euromoney considers following suit but decides that the football and financial omens are not propitious. Franco-Belgian bank Dexia has just collapsed. Uefa, the leading European football authority, had seen fit to put the fallen bank’s chairman, Jean-Luc Dehaene, in charge of its own Financial Control Panel investigating football clubs’ finances. That choice looks laughable now. Surely, it’s a signal to be wary.

Euromoney weighs up the odds of a concerted eurozone rescue plan emerging at the next European heads of state meeting and the negligible opposition facing world and European football champions Spain and the other PIGS. Surely the sensible choice is to back them all to triumph at 9/1.

That night, Spain, Ireland and Greece duly dispatch modest opponents, but Portugal succumbs in Denmark.

The leading lights fare no better. While Germany triumphs as normal, in Paris, France is held to a draw by Bosnia and Herzegovina.

No one has won, except the bookies. Let’s hope that’s not an omen.

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