Monday, October 16, 2006

Welsh not British

During a job interview at the BBC a few years ago I was asked this question from a well-meaning executive down from London:

"Why do you think that it is important for Wales to have its own area on the BBC Sports Website ?"

I responded with a question:

"Why is there not a link to the English sports section of the site ? I'll tell you. Because you begin with the assumption that England is Britain, and therefore England is your starting point. On the BBC Sports website, you can navigate to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. England is the default. That is wrong in so many ways"

I didn't get the job. And you still can't navigate to England from the BBC Sport homepage. You see, you are already in England.

This confusion about England's status as the dominant force in Britain has reared its head recently in the letters page of the Sunday Times following an article by Ian Hawkey on Euskadi's and Catalunya's claims for a representative National football side. Here is an extract:

Obliging Catalans and Basques to play for Spain is like telling Barry
Ferguson, Craig Bellamy or David Healy they can only play international
football for a Britain team called England.
Leaving aside the disgusting, arrogant and insulting misnomer that is the England Cricket Team, Hawkey has made the same inflated claim for England's status. William Morrell wrote a letter that to the Times that corrects this assumption:

Further to Ian Hawkey's was stated that Fifa works on the principle
"that to have a national side, you need to be a sovereign state, with a seat
at the UN. But vagaries do exist, like Wales, Scotland and Northern

Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland ? But not England ? You will notice that Hawkey makes the same BBC Website assumption. i.e. that England is somehow above the squabbling claims of the minor Celtic nations. Morrell goes on to explain:

England also falls into this category, in that it is no more a sovereign state
than the other three countries that make up the United Kingdom. Many Catalans
and Basques are misguided in their belief that Spain and England are equal
political/sovereign entities. They confuse England with the UK and draw fake
comparisons, wrongly thinking that the Scots have been granted special
dispensation not to play for England. They miss the point that England are only
permitted to compete as an individual nation subject to the same historic
agreement as their UK partners. What the Basques and Catalans want is a seperate
team from the sovereign state, Spain.

Well said that man.


Anonymous said...

Great piece - puts the whole thing in context in a way I was always aware of, but had never really put together before.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this wasn't the case when you penned this article - but there is now a section on the BBC web-site called 'England'.