What is the cost of flying the England flag from your car window during the world cup? The OR team investigates research by Dr Filipone of Manchester University.

It was claimed back in 2006 by Manchester University’s Dr Antonio Filippone, that “Half a million cars with flags attached will burn a total of £1.2 million worth of fuel during the World Cup.” This seems an incredibly large cost considering the relative size of the flag in question. The OR team decided to investigate how this cost could be achieved, and what the impact of the recent world cup might be:
Dr Filippone is a researcher in the field of aerodynamics and is therefore presumably credible when he purports that “an average car with two flags attached burns an extra litre of fuel per hour at an average of 70mph”. To justify the figure of £1.2 million in 2006 we will make the following assumptions:
– The average flag flying footie fan flew his car flags for the duration that England was in the World cup (from June 10th to July 1st; 21 days)
– An average car journey of 3,000 miles per year, so over the 21 days flag flying period, this equates to roughly 173 miles
– We also need to make an assumption that different speeds cause different flag drag. To simplify things, let us say that there is a linear relationship to car speed and drag
– The price of a litre of unleaded petrol in 1996 was 95.9p (according to the AA Fuel price report)
Putting these figures together, we can show that our footie punter spent £2.36 over the duration of the England campaign. OK, so the pack of two flags can be bought at a suitable pound shop or supermarket for £1, therefore their total flag-related outgoings is £3.36, but does this mean that Filippone’s financial figure of £1.2m is out of the question?
This all hinges on the scalability of the answer. Dr Filippone also assumes that there are 500,000 drivers all doing the same as our fan and if this is the case then we do indeed get around £1.2m in wasted fuel cost.
How might this have changed for the 2010 campaign?
Well one thing is that the price of fuel has gone up. Again, according to the AA, the price per litre is £1.18, which is an increase of 23%. You might have therefore expected the amount spent on fuel to have increased in proportion. However England failed to qualify for the quarter finals this year, and indeed were only in the tournament for 15 days. So according to our calculations only £1.04m were wasted by England fans this time.
The most common use of this sort of analysis lies within the creation of benefits cases, and if you need some expert advice please contact Jonathon Chadwick.