The pettiness of "Anyone but England"

The tradition in Scotland of supporting "Anyone but England" during the football World Cup plays to the worst aspects of Scottish nationalism.
Gerry Hassan
24 June 2010

The Scotland-England relationship has historically been one of the defining features of Scottish life.

In recent years, Scottish football fans have started more and more to identify with whoever England is playing, whether it be the World Cup, European Championships or a mere friendly.

All of this has now reached epic proportions. There has been the "anyone but England" (ABE) phenomenon, which has spawned a website, campaign and numerous commercial ventures. Kilt makers Slanj have got into trouble for making ABE T-shirts and HMV for selling them.

STV have run a campaign inviting viewers to identify "Who will you support?" in the World Cup, with TV advertising and billboards listing a range of countries from "Cameroon, because it rhymes with Macaroon" and "Holland, because their strip matches my bird's tan". Gill Petrie, managing director of STV, dismissed the whole thing as a bit of fun stating: "It doesn't really matter how tenuous the link is between the country and the reason for choosing to support them: it's all about getting involved in a great sporting event, and having a sense of humour about the fact our national team isn't participating!"

Cameron Toll Shopping Centre, in Edinburgh, has run a holiday competition entitled "Anywhere But England Please!" with the prize an expenses paid holiday to the nation that wins the World Cup. A spokesperson for the shopping centre claimed: "With 32 possible destinations, including Brazil, Australia, USA and Spain, the advert is, of course, siding with our eventual competition winner by hoping the prize is more than just a few miles down the road."

The thinking behind all of this is self-evident: the Scots have a problem with the English, at least on the football field, and all of this is so widespread it can be used to promote a TV channel or shopping centre. Some people do take offence at this. Slanj's T-shirts led to complaints of being racist, as did the shopping centre competition.

This article originally appeared on the Guardian's Comment is Free: Read on.


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