May 31, 2006
The £100 World Cup penalty
By Adam Fresco
FILLING the official World Cup football sticker album has become an expensive pastime with children now having to pay more than £100 to complete their collection. Panini, who produce the albums, have been given the red card by consumer groups for making it such a costly hobby and putting so much pressure on parents to help to pay for it.
There are 598 stickers to find and each packet of random stickers, containing five players, costs 35p. The law of probabilities, however, means that the nearer collectors get to completing the albums, the more difficult it is to find those elusive, last few players. With 17 football stars from each of the 32 teams to find, plus a team photograph, a badge and pictures of the stadiums, it could cost more than £100 to complete one album.
Collectors all over the world are logging on to website forums trying to find someone with whom to swap surplus stickers. Some are complaining that they have a huge surplus of some players while others are as rare as an England penalty shoot-out win. One calls them “a damn rip-off”.
There are 22 more stickers to collect this year than at the last World Cup in 2002, already making it several pounds more expensive to acquire them all.
The National Consumer Council has complained about the cost and the irritation for parents whose children are unable to complete the albums. An NCC spokesman said: “These albums cost an arm and a leg to fill, far more than children can afford. Our message is that they are very costly and parents ultimately face having to put up with all the annoyance and irritation that these stickers cause. “Whenever the World Cup comes around, companies latch on to it as a big marketing opportunity and Panini is no exception. This is a classic case of pester power.
“It risks a backlash from parents who hate the pester power that heavy marketing to kids unleashes.”
Bill Hibberd, of the consumer group Parentkind, also complained about the grief that parents get from their children. “The World Cup series is just one of many sticker sets that this firm offers and, of course, this is not the only firm offering this type of service. “It is a great business idea but really tough on parents. We at Parentkind feel that parents get a raw deal from the unleashing of the demon pester power. “Unlike a TV or radio, children cannot be switched off and once pester power is unleashed it can become a relentless berating of the parents until either tempers flare or the parent gives in.”
Panini claims that completing the album costs no more than some video games and that swapping stickers encourages children to mix with each other. He said that, at 35p a pack, the stickers were better for children than sickly confectionary. Mark Warsop, the marketing director of Panini UK, said: “The idea of the sticker album is that you do it over a long period of time and it is a pocket-money purchase.
“You are supposed to collect it over 12-or-so weeks. When you break down how much it costs over that period of time for the amount of enjoyment, it is in line with other products. “If you compare it with chocolate and packs of crisps which kids consume on a regular basis, it is cheaper and better than paying 35p for a chocolate bar.”
Empire of cards
- Panini brothers founded the company in 1961
- Collectible cards featuring footballers’ photographs date back to late 19th century when used by cigarette companies to boost sales
- On average, Panini has produced 1 billion packs a year in past few seasons
- First sticker printed was Bruno Bolchi, captain of Inter Milan
- Some collections in excellent condition have changed hands for £650.00
- The number of stickers in each collection has more than doubled since 1970 Mexico tournament
Number of stickers
- 598 Germany (2006)
- 576 Korea/Japan (2002)
- 561 France (1998)
- 444 USA (1994)
- 448 Italy (1990)
- 427 Mexico (1986)
- 427 Spain (1982)
- 400 Argentina (1978)
- 400 Germany (1974)
- 271 Mexico (1970)