Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

23 August 2008

Football’s coming home – to Britain: GB backs Team UK for the 2012 Olympics

Thanks for alerting me to this piece of news go to a comment from ‘Big Englander’ on my last post on ‘Team GB’ at the Beijing Olympics. GB – Gordon Brown, that is – has come out in favour of a ‘UK’ (yes, UK, not GB) football team at the London Olympics in 2012. Apparently, according to the report on Sky News, GB has already “met with head of FIFA Sepp Blatter, Olympic organisers and FA organisers in Britain in order to broker an agreement”. Watch out, lads; this looks serious.

Again according to the report, GB is quoted as saying, “I hope there will be a team by 2012. It will be team UK”. Could it be that GB has taken note of the criticisms – of which my last post was just one among many – of the use of ‘GB’ for the name of the British team and of the country as a whole in the Olympics and, indeed, in his own paean of praise to team GB last weekend?

“I want to send my congratulations to Team GB on this golden weekend for British sport. Eight gold medals and seventeen medals in total in one weekend is a superb and unprecedented achievement. The whole country has been watching and has been thrilled by Team GB. We are immensely proud of what they have achieved so far, and inspired by their performance. Our Olympians’ talent and dedication represent the very best of Britain and we look forward to another great week of British sporting success”.

Are we now to conclude that the whole of the British team will be designated Team UK, not just the football team? This may come as quite a shock to the marketing bods at the British Olympic Association, which has been diligently building up the ‘brand’ of Team GB since it was launched at Atlanta 1996 and is making it the centrepoint of its preparations for 2012! How would a Team UK for all the Olympic sports accommodate the delicate issue of Northern Irish athletes who elect to compete for Team Ireland (as it is in fact called)? Football is a sport where you could make an exception or, depending on how you look at it, where it would be unavoidable to make an exception. This is because football is one of the few sports with a mass following where there are separate Northern Irish and Eire teams. Therefore, to include Northern Irish footballers, some of whom might be very well known, in a four-nation team and still call it ‘Team GB’ would make the anomaly of that name even more glaring and offensive – to unionists, at least.

GB’s justification of the Team UK idea is apt to make the blood of many an English patriot, and even that of not especially patriotic English football supporters, boil: “Britain is the home of football, which we gave to the world, and people will be surprised if there is an Olympic tournament in football and we are not part of it”. Yes, you read it right: football was invented in Britain, not England, as you may have read elsewhere; and GB wants the Olympics to be an occasion when – to adapt the lines in the Lightning Seeds’ anthem for Euro 96 – ‘football’s coming home’. To Britain.

What amuses me particularly about this is that GB seems to have forgotten his words in October 2007, when FIFA announced it was dropping its continental rotation system for allocating the World Cup, allowing England to prepare a bid to host the true greatest show on earth in 2018:

“I am delighted that FIFA have opened the door for the World Cup to come back to England. By 2018, it will be 52 years since England hosted the World Cup. The nation which gave football to the world deserves to have the greatest tournament back on these shores.

“If The FA decide to go ahead and bid for the tournament, they know they will have the full support of the Government behind them, and we will make it our mission to persuade other countries to back us in bringing the World Cup back to England.”

So, Mr Brown, England is the nation that gave football to the world, is it, not Britain? And you’re backing England’s bid to bring “the greatest tournament . . . back to England”. ‘Back home’, indeed. You could almost be mistaken for thinking Brown’s words here were those of an English First Minister. Sorry, they are the words of an English First Minister; only an unelected one who does double duty as the PM for the UK. Hence, with his English hat on, he actually says ‘England’ and refers to it as a ‘nation’ (quite a staggering thing to emerge from the mouth of our leader and highly untypical of him); and with his British hat on, what was previously attributed to England (the invention of football) now gets reattributed to the UK. At least, in his statement today, GB didn’t have the gall to refer to the UK as a ‘nation’.

Just another example of Brown’s appropriation of English identity and history to Britain when it suits his unionist agenda. And, believe you me, the Olympics are going to become an almighty battleground between nationalists and unionists in the run up to 2012! As I argued in my previous post, the unionists are going to try to exploit the success of Team GB at Beijing and the hosting of the Games in London in 2012 for all their worth to try to whip up British patriotic fervour (in England, mainly, of course), and to slow or even halt the progress to a pro-independence referendum in Scotland that could break up GB (or should that be UK?) in the most humiliating fashion just as it was about to put on an event calculated to portray GB / UK as a united, proud and great nation!

As the great Scottish manager of Liverpool, Bill Shankly, once said: “football is not a matter of life and death; it’s more serious than that” (or words to that effect). In similar vein, putting together a football Team UK is about more than football: it’s about keeping the UK together, which means denying England’s distinct identity and traditions – some of the most cherished of which are those of football. Olympic Games (Team UK) or World Cup (England): I know which matters more to me.

So hands off our national teams, GB!



  1. Another day and another piece of British nationalist propeganda from our dear leader. I imagine he is on the phone to his mates at the BBC, ITV and Sky as I write so expect all sorts of features and polls on this in the coming week.

    Comment by Little Englander — 24 August 2008 @ 10.10 am | Reply

  2. Sorry, but it gets worse..if thats possible..he wants to appoint fellow scot Ferguson as the “team UK” manager, even for him thats taking his anti English stance to new hights.

    Comment by Big Englander — 24 August 2008 @ 10.55 am | Reply

  3. Aswell as his renowned hostility towards all things English, Fergusmoan is also a Labour crony, so he would be the perfect candidate of course!

    Comment by Little Englander — 24 August 2008 @ 12.07 pm | Reply

  4. The whole thing could backfire on them, of course. Football fans don’t want a Team UK / GB; so if it’s forced upon us, especially with Fergie as manager, there’ll be a massive uproar about it as well as disagreements in the football establishment and among players themselves. It could actually cause more people to turn away from giving support to the UK / GB, politically as well as in sport. This is a case of hubris on the part of the unionists: they think they can get away with anything while they’re riding on the back of Olympic success. But this is the summer holiday: the silly season. Real politics and economic realities will kick in again soon, and Brown will be back in the brown stuff. Imposing an unpopular Team UK on football is a very risky tactic indeed!

    Comment by David — 24 August 2008 @ 2.53 pm | Reply

  5. The prospect of a UK football team endangers the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland football teams existing.

    Even Sepp Blatter admits he same.

    See View from North Britain for more.

    Apologies for the shameless plug!

    Comment by northbritain — 24 August 2008 @ 6.29 pm | Reply

  6. I think you could be right, northbritain. In fact, maybe that’s Gordon Brown’s endgame: he actually wants a British national football team, permanently. Well, let’s just hope that the various FA’s hold out against him.

    Comment by David — 24 August 2008 @ 8.58 pm | Reply

  7. […] as Lord Coe refers to it – that is Team GB and the 2012 Olympics. The game which, in GB’s words at the weekend, “[Britain] gave to the world” [sic], refuses to play ball and deny a century and a […]

    Pingback by It’s not just about a football Team GB: it’s about the existence of GB as a nation « Britology Watch: Deconstructing ‘British Values’ — 26 August 2008 @ 2.09 am | Reply

  8. I do not believe this

    Comment by fornetti — 30 August 2008 @ 11.48 pm | Reply

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