“There is, after all, nothing like a common enemy… to bring Europeans together and for once the UK can join the party.”
As anyone in Britain during the football earlier this summer, or the rugby earlier in the year, cannot have failed to notice, for some reason sport does seem to unite people behind their country like very little else. Golf is hardly the ideal vehicle, being somewhat dull to put it mildly, but sport could well serve as a useful way of getting us notoriously anti-European Brits thinking like the Europeans we geographically and culturally are.
Quite what other sports would lend themselves to having a European team I don’t know. But Rugby might be a good test case. We already have the British Lions, made up of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – why not include decent players from France and Italy, and stage exhibition matches against a combined force of the southern hemisphere? Not only would that make for a damn fine match, but it would gain support for a joint European venture from the traditionally Eurosceptic middle-class middle Englanders who are rugby union’s biggest fanbase. A small step, mayhap, but potentially an important one. Or what about a combined European football team against a combined Latin American one? Give me a single soccer fan who wouldn’t want to see that one.
The EU needs to continue fostering a shared identity between its disparate member states if the project is going to advance. I’m not by any means advocating a shift to federalism here, but it is simply the case that if the EU is going to continue to achieve anything at all, the common ground between all us Europeans needs to be emphasised more than it has been so that political agreements can more easily be reached. Is golf the first step?