As England’s footballers head to their Euro 2020 quarter-final clash with Ukraine, following an historic win over Germany, Sunder Katwala, Director of identity thinktank British Future said:
“Saturday night looks set to be the biggest shared moment in England so far this year, with around 25 million of us watching together as Gareth Southgate’s team take on Ukraine in Euro 2020.
“Perhaps only the Royals, Remembrance and our shared respect for the NHS have the same power to unify this nation.
“With the energy now gone from early controversies about ‘taking the knee’, the whole of England is behind this young, exciting and diverse group of players.
“Our research finds that the England team is the symbol of English identity that feels equally owned and shared by people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, bridging divides by place and by politics.
“We will need to build an inclusive Englishness outside the stadium too. But the impact on national unity would be quite extraordinary if the England flags are still flying come next Sunday’s Wembley final.”
Sunder is the co-author of Beyond a 90-minute nation: Why it’s time for an inclusive England outside the stadium – our recent report with the Centre for English Identity and Politics, featuring new attitudes research on issues of English identity, race, prejudice and football today – including a 2,000-strong sample of ethnic minority respondents.
Findings from the research include:
- Sport helps people see the England flag more positively. Around six in ten white citizens (58%) and half (47%) of ethnic minority citizens would see an England flag outside a pub, or hanging from someone’s window, as a healthy expression of English pride if it is flown during a sporting event like the Euros. Divorced from sport, however, on a normal day of the year, only half of white citizens (49%) and 4 in 10 ethnic minorities (38%) see the flag in such a positive light. A quarter of ethnic minorities (26%) and a fifth of white respondents (21%) would see the St George’s flag as a worrying expression of nationalism when it is not associated with sport.
- Two-thirds of white and ethnic minority citizens in England agree that the England football team is a symbol of England that ‘belongs to people of every race and ethnic background in England today’ (white 66%, ethnic minority 65%). Just one in thirteen disagree
- That looks very different to other symbols of English identity. Less than half (48%) of ethnic minority citizens feel that the England flag belongs equally to people of different backgrounds, compared to six in ten (59%) white respondents. Only four in ten ethnic minority citizens in England (39%) currently agree that a St George’s Day party is a symbol of England that belongs to all of us, compared with over half (54%) the white respondents.
- Three quarters (77%) of white people in England agree that ‘Being English is open to people of different ethnic backgrounds who identify as English.’ Just 14% feel that ‘Only people who are white count as truly English.’ Two-thirds (68%) of ethnic minority citizens agree that being English is open to people of all backgrounds, while 19% feel that English identity is the preserve of white people
In the report Sunder Katwala looks at how football changed who we thought of as English and how we move beyond being a ‘90-minute nation’; while John Denham of the Centre for English Identity and Politics writes about how we could build an inclusive English identity outside the stadium.