There are many metrics by which the hardcore-ness of a nation’s soccer fans can be measured: merchandise purchases, how far they travel for games, fervor for face painting and impassioned acts of hooliganism. However, the fans in the stadium (and those getting kicked out of the stadium) only tell part of the story. How about those at-home fans? What if there were a way to measure just how into their European Championship games each nation was?
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Finding out who’s actually paying attention
In this day and age there is one major indicator that someone is actually paying attention to something, be it a conversation, their work, a movie or a sporting event: he or she is not messing around on the internet at the same time. Naturally then, in order to find out which nation’s at-home fans were most invested in the games, it had to be determined which nation had the biggest drop-off in internet usage during games as fans abandoned their digital devices to cheer on their countrymen.
Methodology to the madness
Internet activity measuring duties fell to Imperva Incapsula, who harnessed the powers of their massive CDN to gain a clear picture of what was or was not going on online during each game of the Euros.
A CDN or content delivery network is a globally distributed network of proxy cache servers designed to deliver website content to users as quickly as possible by cutting down the physical distance between users and the server they are redirected to based on geolocation, amongst other website performance improvement methods. The Imperva Incapsula content delivery network serves tens of millions of users in Europe and handles 12 million requests per minute, so they had an advantageous position when it came to observing the internet habits of European soccer fans.
The data used was amassed by comparing the number of sessions to the CDN at the time of the game as compared to the average number of sessions that occurred at the same time and on the same day of the week from May 20 to June 8. The tournament began on June 10th.
Group Stage, where the underdogs (mostly) ruled the day
To kick off the tournament it was generally the countries whose teams were major underdogs in their matches who tuned in most ardently and recorded the biggest drops in internet usage. Albania, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary all won the battle of at-home fan fervency while Switzerland, England, Germany and Austria were a little more chill about splitting their attention between devices, perhaps because they were more confident in the outcome of the games.
The exceptions to this loose rule were Spain, whose fans dutifully ignored the internet as they took on the lower-seeded Czech Republic; Portugal, who outshone Iceland when it came to dropping their devices; and the home team and major favourite France, whose fans weren’t willing to overlook the game against Romania and recorded a 19 percent drop in internet usage.
On to the Round of 16
France fans kept on keeping on when it comes to focusing on football. While France’s internet usage declined 23.3 percent during their game against the Republic of Ireland, Irish fan internet usage actually rose 0.4 percent. The Icelanders who stayed offline to record a 2.4 percent drop in internet usage were rewarded with a big upset, thumping England whose disenchanted fans recorded a 9.6 percent rise in internet-ing. Italy and Germany both inspired drops of over 15 percent with their big wins over Spain and Slovakia, respectively.
The Quarter Finals, where it was Germany vs. Italy on and off the field
Germany and Italy played in a nail-biter that was decided on penalty kicks, with Germany walking away the winner. German fans also won with an 18.6 percent decrease in usage to Italy’s also-impressive 15.5 percent drop. France, meanwhile, kept ignoring the internet and kept on winning, taking down Iceland. Portugal’s at-home fans also had a notable showing with a 14.6 percent decrease during their win on penalty kicks over Poland.
Semi ignoring the internet
During the semi-finals it was old internet ignoring favourites Germany and France once again posting double-digit drops, with Germany seeing a 14.6 percent drop and France posting a 13 percent decrease. On the field it was all France with a 2-0 win.
The UEFA European Championships 2016 finals saw a blistering match-up between France and Portugal, and while both teams’ fans did their part by ignoring the net, in the end it was the internet imitating life with Portugal coming out on top with a whopping 60 percent decrease in internet usage and a 1-0 win. France had a 39 percent reduction in internet usage.
Though CDNs are much more typically used for things like speeding up websites, improving performance and search engine rankings, cutting bandwidth bills and protecting against DDoS attacks, observing European Championship internet traffic was worthwhile as well, even if only to keep Russian hooligans from being named the top fans based on how many people they hospitalised.