Wednesday, 24 October 2007


Recently I wrote that I would support England in the Rugby World Cup Final.

For many Scots this would be a surprising decision. For me it was a surprising decision.

I had enjoyed hugely England’s embarrassment of the earlier rounds but started to fear their progress as Australia fell. I didn’t know on the afternoon of the Final that I was going to support England but I was aware of the question, “Who shall I support?”. The presence of the question indicated a change of position. That there was any doubt about my support for South Africa indicated a change of position.

What happened? Why did I turn? Why did 50 years of supporting England's opponents disappear?

I think I now but yet I'm not sure. Supporting England seemed correct. Certainly the decision had nothing to do with a belief that England would win.

I think I realised that the only basis I had for actively supporting England's opponents was flawed - totally. English victories are rammed down Scottish throats by the national media - or rather the English media. Anything to do with England is rammed down Scottish throats. The BBC becomes the EBC. ITV, and Sky latterly, fulfil similar roles. This bias can't be countered directly and so any English failure, a ramming opportunity lost, is greeted with delight. Victory in 1966 was the killer blow. We suffered so much with every mention or clip from that English victory. For many years this view controlled my thinking - sad really. I had been using the English media to support my desire for English loss.

Certainly, anti-Englishness had nothing to do with my views. Despite my delight at English failure I have always supported England at cricket regardless of who were their opponents.

I think my views were weakening for several years before I allowed them fresh air. The flaw is so obvious that I find it hard to understand why I took so long to find it.

The Scottish media behave in the same way as the national, British, media. Scottish sports coverage is dominated by Rangers and Celtic in the same way a British sports coverage is dominated by English sports. This is an inevitable consequence of broadcasting / writing for the largest constituency: in Britain this is the English and in Scotland it is the Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic. I get Rangers and Celtic rammed down my throat; I support both teams in Europe but I am happy to see them lose domestically. There is no difference between England and Rangers and Celtic.

What had annoyed me for so many years was not a trait solely of the English media but of the media everywhere. We Scots were rather good at remembering our stroll in the park against England in 1967 when Scotland became the first team to defeat England since their World Cup victory. Again there was no difference between us.

Having uncovered these views, now I had nothing but habit to allow me to support England's opponents. I discarded this habit last Saturday.

1 comment:

  1. As a non-sports fan, I don't have this dilemma, but I did find myself shouting for Italy in the World Cup last year. A friend asked who I would have supported had England got to the final. That was easy - Italy. But had it been Wales... Not that I could care less, of course!