At the London 2012 Olympic Games, a football team representing Great Britain &Northern Ireland will take to the field for the first time since 1972. This research uses the often fractious and acrimonious debate surrounding this issue to gain insights and understandings about contemporary national identity and nationalisms in the United Kingdom. In particular, the objective is to show how these concepts may be influenced, affected or altered by the existence or absence thereof of a Great Britain Olympic football team at London 2012. A virtual ethnographic approach is adopted and a number of websites are identified where discussion and debate has already been undertaken between fans of the home nations teams: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The expectation was that the debate would reflect parallel political arguments regarding the constitutional make up of the United Kingdom. However, it transpired that this was not the case and the association between sporting and political arguments was less fervent and profound than was anticipated. This suggests that there is a degree of satisfaction among fans concerning the footballing and political status quo, particularly now that the way football is organised in the UK reflects the political make-up of the UK more than ever. A number of themes emerge, most notably those relating to anti-Englishness and the common conflation of England and Great Britain. The issue of social class is identified as being significant to these processes and the working class following and ethos that football has is central to this. Comparisons are made with cricket and rugby union to illustrate these points, and the significance of the England team’s continued use of symbols that are usually associated with the UK, such as the anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, is identified as contributing to instances of conflation. In these regards, the work of several theorists is deemed to be helpful in detailing the contemporary significance of nationalism. But it is the ‘banal nationalism’ of Michael Billig that is seen to be most important and appropriate in describing the significance of the home nations teams to continuing constructions of the nation.
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Reference : Marks, D. (2011). Team GB: united or untied? Contemporary nationalism, national identity and British Olympic football teams at London 2012: PhD Thesis. Loughborough: Loughborough University. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/2134/8370
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