21 March 2006

Politics and football

How far does the national team’s performance on the football field shape people’s attitudes towards politics?

Bobby Moore lifts the World Cup in 1966


It is a question of increasing relevance with the World Cup looming in Germany in a few months’ time.

The topic was the subject of a fascinating talk given by Dr Nina Reiling MA of the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

The event, on March 21, was the latest of a series of guest lectures organised by the Journalism Studies Department of the University of Sheffield.

Dr Nina Reiling

Dr Reiling outlined research her department had carried out to discover if there was a correlation between footballing and political success.

Researchers tracked the German national team’s games and compared it with people’s attitudes towards politics.

The conclusion was that when the national mood was upbeat, people judged politicians more favourably. Football victories therefore could help parties and candidates, but defeats on the field could also damage them.

Gerhard Schroeder’s decision to call an early election last autumn means the researchers cannot study a World Cup and general election in the same year as was originally planned, which might have provided further interesting results.

But Dr Reiling pointed out that Schroeder’s successor as Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is already keen to prove to the public that she is knowledgeable about football.

For politicians and political parties perhaps there is more riding on the results of this summer’s matches than simply national pride?

And maybe Tony Blair is hoping an England victory in the final at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on July 9 will help ease the pressure on his under-fire administration?

* The Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg is an Erasmus partner and students at Sheffield have opportunity of spending a semester there.