A fitting end for ‘post-facts’ England

Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the week’s football action and the stories making the headlines across the beautiful game.

Yes this is a football blog. Yes I'm going to talk about Brexit. But I'll try and keep it quick.

In one of the most famous sound bites of the referendum campaign, Leave campaigner Michael Gove famously claimed the people of Britain ‘have had enough of experts'. When his accusation that the British people care more about emotional triggers than facts was depressingly proven correct on Thursday night, it was a sign that Britain had entered a 'post-facts' world, where emotional narratives have become so dominant that logic has become merely a secondary concern.

It was fitting then, that when England crashed out of Euros last night, it was in a fashion perfect for ‘post-facts Britain’. On paper, the England team with their well-paid and well respected stars should have comfortably dismantled underdogs Iceland. But England not only lost, they were completely outplayed. Their stars seemingly having forgotten how to play the game they’ve made a living out of as England found themselves on the wrong side of one of the great footballing fairy tales.

What was so striking was the way England seemed to cast themselves in the role they ended up playing. From the fourth minute onwards, England played like they were destined to be on the wrong side of a historic upset, playing with the fear and panic of a team that could see impending doom long before it became a reality. For a nation that has so enjoyed playing the role of David against Goliath, notably in taking on the ‘terrifying’ behemoth of the EU, the England football team on Monday night seemed determined to be Goliath, failing to complete five yard passes as the pebble hurtled towards their heads.

A defeat that defies logic and reason, but perfect for a nation that has become completely driven by narratives. A country misled by an emotive narrative of hope into ignoring the fundamental flaws of this team through the group stages. Narratives have been central to our lives forever, but never have they felt quite so dominant, and never has shaping these stories, especially your own, been so important. It's impossible to stress enough how potentially scary this could be for the country as a whole, as some of what has emerged post Thursday vote has hinted at, but that is for someone else's blog. For now it's for the England football team to face their fate. After all, if you live your life through the lens of heroes and villains, defending shores and slaying dragons, you can't be surprised if once and a while a dragon comes up and bites you on the arse.

James Fenn

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search