How do people invoke national football support as a boundary-drawing exercise?
In Scotland support for the national football team is regarded as a legitimate expression of national identity for both Scottish and English folk. The representation of a collective English national identity and ‘their’ stereotypes of the Scottish legitimate the assertion of a shared Scottish national identity, the maximization of differences between the national groups, and the justification for anti-English sentiment.
Moreover, this psychological attachment to Scotland and the Scottish is distinguished from the state of ‘being’ British. In England, respondents can also cast English and Scottish national identity in terms of national football, but treat these as problematic. Whilst the Scots are attributed with performing national identity and (justifiable) antagonisms towards the English through football, it is not acceptable for the English to do so.
Displays of collective English national identity are treated as irrational, a threat to individualism, and reflecting negative associations with hooliganism, xenophobia, and the values of the far Right. The inclusion of far Right hooligans into the sample, who do regard football as a legitimate expression of English nationalism, offers an insight into what the majority of the England-born sample resist.