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EU and a political football

So Gordon wants to be associated with a winning bid for the 2018 Football World Cup, does he? Undeterred by the rising cost of the Olympics, our revered Chancellor wants to ‘bring football home’.

It’s as though football provides a halo effect that is seductive to politicians of all parties. Because it’s not just Gordon who has fallen under the sport’s spell. Now Brussels has jumped on the bandwagon, planning to field a Europe XI against Manchester United to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Union.

EU officials have confirmed that, while other member states will hold youth summits, music concerts and art exhibitions, football was thought to be the best way to reach a Euro-sceptic British public — particularly given the popularity of European stars in the Premiership.

So what does football have going for it that those alternative events lack? The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso sums it up by saying that the anniversary should be celebrated “…through the great game of football that inspires Europeans in a unique way, through a shared passion and a language understood by all.”

Pardonnez moi, but this language — particularly for the French public — seems to disappear from their minds between tournaments, and only resurfaces then if they’re winning. And who is going to get excited by a mock team playing the likes of ManU, even if it does include David Beckham, and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher?

If the politicians of Europe hope that, by fielding a team of celebs, attitudes towards the Constitution will soften — more fool them. Consumers of football are a canny and astute breed. Some would say it is the fans — not the sport’s authorities — who own the football ‘brand’ and a political attempt to hijack it for promotional reasons will be seen as a cheap con.

There is, of course, the other side of the coin. For the match coincides with the 50th anniversary of ManU’s participation as the first English team to play UEFA’s European club competition. And all proceeds from the event will go to charity.

The authorities are clearly banking on considerable interest, hoping to attract audiences throughout the world. But the passion the EC President is looking for? In a make-shift team playing for the European Union? Probably not. And the fans, those potential viewers, will know it, too.

Will they warm towards Gordon, and his 2018 bandwagon? Now that’s slightly different. The prospect of hosting the world’s biggest single sporting tournament — and with national pride at stake — might well swing the odd vote. But it’s worthwhile noting that England’s failure to host last year’s World Cup was as a result of Tony and the FA clearly misjudging FIFA politics. Gordon won’t be forgiven for making the same mistake.

 

Louella Miles
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