Football and Politics Part III

Host nations are automatically eligible to participate. But there are several reasons why several countries are applying together to win major football championships:

  • ECONOMIC : Small countries that alone can not bear the costs associated with such championships can get it by cooperating.
  • RECONCILIATION : Increased degree of joint applications testifies that football is used as a tool in reconciliation projects between former political enemies or rivals (Turkey / Greece, Hungary / Croatia and the Czech Republic / Slovakia). The co-operation appears to be a signal of a low level of political conflict and a desire to forge closer ties.
  • INTEGRATION: This development reflects an ongoing integration process. It shows that the borders of the nation-state are being erased and that regional co-operation is preferred in some places rather than co-operation within nation-state borders (Scotland / Wales and Scotland / Ireland). It also testifies that EU member states seek cooperation with neighboring countries outside the EU (Norway / Sweden, Turkey / Greece, Hungary / Croatia, Poland / Ukraine, Austria / Hungary). In addition, we see that the countries wishing to cooperate on championships fit into the EU’s various foreign policy dimensions: the northern dimension (Sweden / Norway), the eastern dimension (Austria / Hungary, Hungary / Croatia and Poland Ukraine) and the Mediterranean dimension (Greece / Turkey). And in the EU, these dimensions compete for resources. Defining a project under one of these dimensions can help trigger traction from the EU.
  • MARKETING MEASURES : Especially in Eastern Europe, football cooperation functions as a marketing measure for new and newly established states that want to show that they can now be counted on in the European company. The championships will be a way for them to show that they are again part of Europe after many years on the outside. At the same time, they compensate for the lack of resources by standing together (cf. point 1). In other words, the championships will be part of the nation-building and foreign policy of new democracies in Europe.

This development shows that the European Football Championship develops very similarly to the EU, with the same lines of conflict, patterns of cooperation and adapts to the economic framework conditions that are established in the EU. In other words, we see that the European Football Championship reflects the political development in Europe.

6: British national football team

According to EZINESPORTS, greater degree of European integration paradoxically allows for a stronger regional identity across national borders, and the nation state loses importance. We see this clearly in the British Isles, where football and the struggle for independence are closely linked.

Paradoxically, the current British Prime Minister, the Scot Gordon Brown, proposed to field a British Olympic football team for the London Olympics in 2012. Here he has received support from, among others, David Beckham. This was a distant thought even for Tony Blair, the Scot who contributed to increased autonomy for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain competed with Olympic teams in football in the period 1908 to 1972, and formally the team was dissolved when the Football Association abolished the distinction between amateurs and professional football players in 1974. In the Olympics, one could only participate with amateur players. After this, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have only represented themselves in football. Gordon Brown’s proposal has met with strong opposition in Scotland and the Scottish Football Association. The association fears that this will mean the end for the Scottish national team, which has good results to show in the European Championship and World Cup context. The Scottish Football Association is supported by the Scottish Nationalist Party, which has been a bitter rival to Brown’s Scottish Labor Party. The Scottish Nationalists believe that a united British national team will be an obstacle to Scottish independence.

This case has developed into a troublesome affair for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He’s about to get the whole Scottish people on his neck. The leader of the Scottish supporters’ club (the Tartan Army), for example, has said that even if a British team consists of 11 Scots and the opponent is Brazil, all Scots will support Brazil! If the UK has its own football team during the Olympics in London in 2012, it will go across the political development in the archipelago. For it is characterized by decentralization and increased independence for the individual parts of the kingdom. A seemingly conciliatory initiative will thus create more conflict than one would initially think.

7: Football – a good political tool

There is a lot of politics and emotion in football. Football can contribute to nation building, reconciliation and fraternization. But one should not be too optimistic on behalf of football. Research shows that football / sports as the first to move in peace and reconciliation work alone do not have enough power. For football / sports to function reconcilingly, there must be a minimum of mutual political respect present. If not, football can create rather than prevent conflict.

Football and Politics 3

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