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Soft power in football: Could success boost world standing?

Monday 9 July 2018

COULD World Cup success for England boost Britain’s standing in the world?

With the nation set to play a World Cup semi-final for only the third time in their history, Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise in the University of Salford Business School looks at what the ramifications could be off the pitch.

Professor Chadwick said: “For several years, political consultancy and public relations agency Portland Communications has compiled and published a global soft power ranking. Great Britain has always fared well, often topping the table.

“The latest ranking, published in 2017, nevertheless conjured-up a shock as a Macron-inspired France took over from Britain at the summit of the ranking. 

“Soft power is founded on the ability of a nation to shape the preferences of others, so that they admire its values, seek to emulate its example, and follow what it is doing. Alternatively stated, soft power entails getting others to want the outcomes that you want by co-opting rather than coercing them. 

“This transmits through the role a nation’s personality, culture, political values and institutions, and policies play in establishing its legitimacy and moral authority.

“For some countries, for example Great Britain, football has become an important instrument of soft power. Indeed, in these countries football has become both a point of engagement with the world – a way of expressing values and culture – and also a means through which to influence, to affect decisions, and to sell.

“This week’s upcoming Semi-Finals will therefore make for compelling viewing.

“Both England and France offer an inclusive notion of post-colonial, multicultural liberalism; for example France’s Paul Pogba is a Muslim born to parents from Guinea, whilst Kyle Walker is of mixed heritage – his father Jamaican, his mother English.

“Beyond this, the soft power influence of France extends from the flair of players such as Antoine Griezmann to popular preconceptions of being French, such as style and flamboyance. With England, it is the balanced, sensible management of Gareth Southgate), and the triumph of stability over excess.

“A win for either country will help cement their position in at the top of Portland’s soft power league table. It will also help one or both countries exert their nation brand propositions; that is: who they are, what they stand for, what they are like, and what they do.”

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Sam Wood

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