Dear England…. Football and the Collective Consciousness

Gareth Southgate used the sociological term ‘collective consciousness’ in his pre-Euro tournament letter to the nation, referring to the fact that he reminds the England team that they are creating collective memories and representing the entire nation every time they play a match.

And now that England have reached the final, whether or not ‘we’ win I think it’s true in a sociological sense – the England football team and the experience of the Euros this year has created a collective consciousness in England.

This is an excellent example to illustrate the continued relevance of one of the key concepts of Functionalism, suggesting that even some of these old sociological perspectives can still be applied today!

To quote from the letter:

‘There’s something I tell our players before every England game, and the reason that I repeat it is because I really believe it with all my heart.

I tell them that when you go out there, in this shirt, you have the opportunity to produce moments that people will remember forever.

You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country. 

That letter (NB it’s a great letter, well worth a read!) really oozes a sense of ‘positive nationalism’ – that goes well beyond Football – and it’s very personal – Gareth goes back to his fondest memories of football, and talks about how ‘conduct’ on an off the pitch is important, encourages the fans to be respectful, gives some advice on social media and paying no attention to the hate that can be on it – mentions his grandad and national service, it’s way beyond Football, it links football into our daily lives from a very human perspective.

It’s not just the letter – it’s the history of Gareth Southgate missing his penalty at the Euros in 1996 and this being something of a ‘redemption moment’, and the final’s at Wembly, both Boris Johnson and the Queen have sent messages of support and of course, there’s this song….

Bridging the generations.

I mean I don’t really follow football myself but even I’m getting emotional, feeling that weird feeling of getting behind the team even though I don’t really care for the game very much.

Maybe there is something behind this concept that’s still relevant today?!?

A few sociological observations on England’s progress through the World Cup…

Sociological analysis of the World Cup as a media-construction and a bizarrely inclusive kind of nationalism…

I don’t care too much for football, and I’m most certainly not an English nationalist, and yet I’ve got thoroughly caught up in, and even enjoyed watching England’s progress through this 2018 World Cup (England-Colombia accepted, at least until the very final kick of the ball).

In this post I just present a few sociological musings on the World Cup 2018…..

Come on England

The World Cup is most definitely a media spectacle…

It strikes me that what I’m enjoying is not just the football, it’s the whole month-long media-spectacle surrounding the event: without the media-hype I just don’t think it would be the ‘World-Cup’…. I mean let’s face it, there’s at least 30 minutes ‘studio discussion’ before the group-stage games, and now England are the semi-finals, this pre-amble has increased to 90 minutes, not to mention all the coverage during the day, on T.V. and radio, not to mention social media.

And of course, this year, the ‘youngster’s in the squad have upped the media-integration even more, with (well-managed) use of social media and goal-celebration dances taken from Fortnite….

There’s even instructions out on how to do it… as in this Guardian article

Celebrities co-opting the World-Cup?

Then of course there’s the inevitable celebrities and their ‘support messages’…as in this BBC 1 minute long trailer… I do wonder how many of these celebs even like football?

Celebrities world cup

In fairness, I do know that Russel Brand is a genuine ‘fan’ so fair play, he’s ‘earned’ his place in video, but the rest of the them… this might just be a vessel for self-promotion?

The role of the BBC in constructing ‘World Cup Fever’ ?

Is it just me, or is ITV coverage just a bit ‘wrong’? I don’t actually even regard ITV as a legitimate part of the process of World Cup construction… it’s more of a passenger IMO, it’s just not the same as the BBC.

I mean Gary Lineker is about as ‘England in the World Cup’ as you can get (at least in the last three decades), and there’s no adverts, so you just get to soak up more the atmosphere, and it’s not just Garry: Breakfast Time does a pretty good job hyping up the event too.

BBC world cup
Would it even be a World Cup without Gary ‘crisp-muncher’ Lineker’?

And yet it’s not quite hyperreality!

For all the media-construction, and even talk of ‘hyping it up’, I can’t quite bring myself to call this a truly hyperreal event (as some postmodernists might argue) … because the games take place, well, in place, and there’s clear rules and a time-limit, and I can pop out there for myself if I want to!.

England in the World Cup: A ‘friendlier’ sort of nationalism?

Of course the number of England flags draped out of people’s windows increases during the World Cup, as do the number of on-display beer-belly and football-tattoo combos, but this isn’t a small-minded, intolerant, closed kind of nationalism, it’s a ‘liminal’ type of sports-specific nationalism that’s maybe a little less angry and a little more vulnerable than your Brexit nationalism?

England flags world cup

I definitely think there’s something nationalist about the event: I mean being taken back through our nation’s footballing history is a mainstay of the narrative in the media-coverage, it’s even takes ‘solid form’ in our ex-England players fronting BBC’s coverage, and then of course… ‘football’s coming home’. OK, going down the home homeland route of analysis maybe a bit strong, but then again?!

Certainly the way the World-Cup is constructed in the media, it’s a very inclusive, multicultural, open to all ages, and family-friendly event. A ‘soft-brexit’ kind of nationalism if you like, having said that, I’m sure there are plenty of places and pubs in the UK where those England flags and those tattoos are most definitely not expressing an open and tolerant idea of England!

Anywhere, I’ll leave it there for today, just a few sociological ramblings….

Come on England!