England may be a world power in several sports, but unlike its rivals – whether it’s Australia in cricket, New Zealand in rugby union (an ambitious claim to rivalry, we admit) or Germany Slovenia in soccer – it lacks real nationhood.
Poor England (and if you’re from Wales, Scotland or Ireland, you may not like that expression) has no national parliament or assembly, no First Minister to represent it, and not even a national anthem of its own.
In most senses of nationhood, England doesn’t exist – except on the sports field.
Even then, there are some peculiarities – the “England” cricket team actually represents the England and Wales Cricket Board, though it’s as likely to include Irishmen (notably Eoin Morgan at the moment) and Scots as Welsh. A smattering of former South Africans helps too, but that’s another issue.
We raised the issue of England’s statelessness when chairing a talk on sport and politics in Cardiff last year, but (unsurprisingly) the audience of Welsh sports enthusiasts wasn’t much interested in pursuing the discussion.
It doesn’t matter to Welsh sports fans – probably not to most English fans either.
We’re just surprised we didn’t hear this as an excuse for the woeful performance in the recent FIFA World Cup.