4 min read

They think it's all over...

The Leave campaign got it's dream result - "they scored one more" - only time will tell whether they can lead England home.
They think it's all over...

Trying to make sense of the Brexit result over the last 2 days has resulted in my deactivating my Facebook account, and deciding to not talk politics in any capacity when I return to the UK for a family holiday that begins in 2 weeks.

I've also tried really, really hard to understand the reasons why, and there's been a fair bit of analysis of the reasons:

Outright and clearly defined racism.

The disconnect between London and the rest of England. The clarity of Scotland.


The age gap.


But as I was pondering this today - I realised Brexit is basically the political extension of being an English football supporter.

In fact, going back to Soccernomics it's useful to consider that book's description of the English experience in relation to World Cups, and by extension their culture and beliefs about their place in the world.

Phase 1: Pretournament Certainty That England Will Win the World Cup

1970: Alf Ramsey "“We must now look ahead to the next world cup in Munich where our chances of winning I would say are very good indeed.”
1974: England fail to qualify
2006: Sven Goran Eriksson, “I think we will win it.”

Watching the polls leading up to the referendumn was a slightly worrying exercise - as "Leave" looked so far ahead - and then the Remain side appeared to be levelling. Ultimately though, it appeared that sense would prevail, and Brexit wouldn't occur. Of course the UK would remain in the EU.

Alternatively - if you were firmly a Leave person, and the result was a vindication of your beliefs - then this metaphor fails - so you're probably best to just go and read this.

Phase 2: During the Tournament England Meets a Former Wartime Enemy


I think part of this legend and the myth of the English experience is games like this:

In this metaphor the enemies, the simplest form of the enemies are Germany and France... but as a result of the tenor of the Leave campaign, it was basically anyone that isn't us. And that included "faceless, unaccountable European bureaucrats." Despite the UK having 73 MEPs, with their contact details clearly available for anyone to make use of.

Phase 3: The English Conclude That the Game Turned on One Freakish Piece of Bad Luck That Could Happen Only to Them

1970: Gordon Banks gets sick
1990: Penalty shootout
1998: Penalty shootout
2002: Ronaldinho's free kick

The murder of Jo Cox was in no way a piece of bad luck, but it did feel to me like a turning point.

Phase 4: Moreover, Everyone Else Cheated

1986: Maradona's 'Hand of God'
1998: Simeone gets Beckham sent off
Every ref.

The tone and behaviour of both the Leave and the Remain campaigns seemed full of fear, uncertainty and doubt. The claims that the Leave campaign purported to be returning to the NHS were suspect well before the referendum.


Phase 5: England Is Knocked Out Without Getting Anywhere Near Lifting the Cup

"The team won only five of its eighteen matches at World Cups abroad from 1950 through 1970, and didn’t qualify for the next two tournaments in 1974 and 1978, so at least it has been improving since. The general belief in decline from a golden age is mistaken.

Nothing more to add here.

Phase 6: The Day After Elimination, Normal Life Resumes

The one exception is 1970, when England’s elimination may have caused Labour’s surprise defeat in the general election four days later. But otherwise the elimination does not bring on a nationwide hangover. To the contrary, England’s eliminations are celebrated, turned into national myths, or songs, or commercials for pizza chains.

Brexit has even turned on this point, it's definitely not been normal - but oddly, the backtracking from Nigel Farage:

and Daniel Hannan on the NHS funding and immigration numbers respectively, almost feels like "normal" - it's politicians being politicians, it's all part of the game.

Phase 7: A Scapegoat Is Found

1950: Billy Wright
1998: Beckham
2006: Ronaldo

In this instance - the scapegoats appear to be David Cameron and this evening, Jeremy Corbyn's leadership appears to be under threat from a coup within the Labour party.

Phase 8: England Enters the Next World Cup Thinking It Will Win It

(The World Cup) therefore educates the English in two contradictory narratives about their country: one, that England has a manifest destiny to triumph, and, two, that it never does.

The genius of the song “Three Lions,” English soccer’s unofficial anthem, is that it combines both narratives: “Thirty years of hurt / Never stopped me dreaming.”

Enough said really.

The Leave campaign got it's dream result - "they scored one more" - only time will tell whether they can lead England home.

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