How sport can turn a comment into a whole new post

Below is a post by fellow Drum blogger Aaron Bimpson. It's about how poor England were in the 2010 World Cup and why 'brand' might be at fault. I agree with much of it, but as my reply in the form of a two-minute comment turned into a whole new post, I realised how vital sport is not only to a nation, but to people's lives in general.

There. Said all that without mentioning 'passion' once. D'oh.

England expected: But what did England expect?

As I walked through the city last Sunday afternoon amidst swathes of the stunned and disillusioned, I had watched ‘it’ at the gym from a treadmill. I actually think I clocked more mileage than Rooney, which really isn’t a testament to my level of fitness, more a sad reflection on his. While I surveyed a scene of national mourning and drunken heartbreak. The real underlying issue occurred to me – England have no brand anymore.

If a player from an emerging nation plays extremely well and shines out at the World Cup, maybe, just maybe, he’ll get procured by a second tier Premiership team or become a squad player at one of the big four. As a result his brand gains fame, notoriety and the opportunity to succeed. The trouble for England is that all of our players already do that. So there’s no real distinct advantage of playing for England. Wayne Rooney gets no real benefit from playing for England, he already plays for Manchester Utd, let’s be honest brand Ferguson is a bigger brand than brand Fabio. Robert Green didn’t save it because he didn’t really have to, his bottom line is not really affected by not playing for England.

England’s brand of Football has suffered. I’m not for a second talking about the style in which we play and I’m not just talking about who’s kissing and selling this week. I’m talking about the entire Brand identity of English football. Like many brands suffer, because they just got content and of course you know what happens to contented, slightly unfit, pompous, arrogant, comfort zone brands? Sooner or later, younger, technically astute, fitter, faster German brands come along and thrash them? We had brand under Venables, We had brand under Robson and while we didn’t win anything under either, at least we were proud and happy to be associated. Our Brand is lazy and tired we have a Lampard / Gerrard ‘buy one get one free scenario’ – truly a place where brands go to die.

Take the Germans, the Ghanaians, the teams from South Korea and Japan, even the younger members of the Argentina squad. Observe the wide eyed, X-Factor like enthusiasm with which they go about a game. They take risks, they have no fear of defeat, they work desperately hard. Whatever happens throughout the rest of the tournament, opportunity will be knocking for the young German players and their brand of invigorating, fun and flowing football. Then they’ll launch that brand into a wider market.

We have emerging markets in the Football sphere like we have emerging markets in the world economy. The Asian link here is by no means tenuous, South Korea developed a love of Football, they chose that they wanted to be good at it, now they are; they bend it like Beckham, they pass like Holland, and they dive like Brazil. Adding their own South Korean sense of cast iron discipline, and feverish intensity (Fabio should have taken a job there perhaps) and their almost devout humility and desire to serve the team – that’s one big impressive brand – Man Utd have bought into with Park Ji Sung.
A more ringing endorsement in Football, there is none.

For all the huffing and puffing and sackings, booings, unreserved apologies and goal line technology debates, brand is important, brand is a choice, we all have to ask ourselves what we would choose for ours, or we’ll go the way of the three Lions.

Posted in Uncategorized.

And the unfeasibly large and over-indulgent response: (At the time of going to pixels on Ouch, I was still awaiting untold abuse.)

  1. Larner says

    (Your comment is awaiting moderation)

    Nice article Aaron. I do think there are other factors other than brand that play a part in England’s dire performance in South Africa. Heart, which I think you allude to anyway – you’re right, some of these players plying their trade for the world’s most famous clubs possibly do think they’re at the pinnacle of what they can achieve – they certainly look like that when they loll about the field in an England shirt. But if they’ve no heart, no desire and no pride in their country, then we may as well start placing bets on the team just getting out of their group, never mind reaching the semi-finals.

    Yes, these emerging teams look hungry, but I really hope they’re hungry to represent their country, NOT hungry to tick a box on a talent scout’s agenda from The Premier League – or before we know it, they’ll go exactly the same way as the England team. And that’s what I think the 2nd issue is: money. The Premier League is obscenely awash with the stuff. So much so, the FA cannot take its eyes off the big fat cash cow and re-avert its priorities to the national game – bringing English players through – teaching them the technical ability to hold the ball, pass it out from the back, up to midfield and confidently bide their time until players making the effort to make incisive runs are in a goal-scoring position – you know, like the current world champions. Despite national divisions and disparate regional identities, Spain has invested so much money and time in its national game over the last 15 years – and boy, does it show.

    And has anyone in our game ever pondered how one of the lower-paid leagues in the developed world, The Bundesliga, manages to produce a national team capable of playing such entertaining, ruthless football as the Germans? It never, ever ceases to amaze me when I hear comments such as, ‘On paper, England are a better side than Germany.’ Trouble is, football isn’t played on paper, it’s played on grass – and currently played a million miles better by Germany, despite a sometimes wobbly defence. But it’s a defence that’s more organised and more spirited than our current bunch of overrated individuals, by far.

    Then there’s the FA itself. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old fart, the FA has had no backbone since it obstinately refused to hire Brian Clough, the best man for the England job by a country mile all those years ago. He was streets ahead of the likes of Don Revie – and this is coming from a Leeds fan! The FA is too comfortable, there are too many big cheeses on ridiculous salaries to rock the boat by picking a head who will speak their mind and perhaps ruffle a few of the feathers of our preened, prissy playing staff.

    And additional to your ‘brand’ Aaron, which I do think is partly to blame, I really think we can add PR. The media has done our national game no favours whatsoever. They have built some of a better known English players up as gods, as top ten, top three material on the world stage. For what? Because the media arrogantly believes The Premier League is the best in the world? Because some of these players do well in teams crawling with foreign talent which is technically better, fitter and as you rightly point out Aaron, hungrier? Take these Englishmen out of their clubs; teams that because of their riches can afford to be the best in the world and would probably beat most national sides – and you see instantly the talent that is available to us as a country.

    Quite frankly our players just aren’t good enough. And won’t be – ever, until some major changes take place. We are currently a country, a national game, in complete denial.

    Perhaps a total rebrand? Maybe – but as with any rebrand – it has to be backed up by the restructure, the new processes and new ways of doing things that will deliver the new brand promise.