Sport holds up a mirror to any society. Sadly, English sport today shares the ills of English society at large. Due to the actions of the British elite professional team sport in England has been heavily infiltrated by foreign players just as the country has a whole has been left open to de facto foreign colonisation.
Cricket was the first to fall prey to the disease. In 1969 the qualification rules for foreign players appearing in county cricket were effectively thrown away. Before 1969 any foreign player had to qualify by two years residence in the county: after 1969 they could be specially registered without any qualifying period.
Since 1969 there have been various attempts to stem the number foreign players. Official overseas players – those not qualified to play for England by any route – have been at various times restricted to two per county side, then one per side before reverting back to two per side, which is the situation in 2006.
In the past few years the number of foreign players in county cricket has been greatly expanded by a ruling that any EU state national must be allowed to play in county cricket whether England qualified or not – this has resulted in many Australians and South Africans claiming EU state passports of one sort or another. The final breach in the sporting emigration wall has been the granting of the same rights possessed by EU state passport holders to people from countries which have treaties with the EU that allow them certain trading rights.
This loosening of immigration rules applies to all other sports, many of which are even more vulnerable to invasion than cricket because cricket is not played seriously on the continent. Football and rugby are played within the EU and both games in England have been substantially colonised by continentals. The situation with football has become especially serious with well over half the places in Premiership sides being filled by players not qualified for England. Following England’s exit from the 2006 World Cup the ex-England manager Graham Taylor voiced his fears that England might never again win the World Cup simply because of the lack of opportunity being given to English players (BBC R5 Victoria Derbyshire 7 7 2006). Such fears have grown in intensity since with another World Cup failure in 2010.
The other side of the foreign infiltration coin is the widespread employment of those who are not unequivocally English in English national teams. These people fall into two camps: (1) those who came to England as adults and (2) ethnic minority players either born and raised in England or at least largely raised here. Their employmentby England has been generally a failure, both in terms of their individual performances and in the performance of their respective England teams.
Take the two major English team sports cricket and football. Of the questionable players who have finished their Test careers of and played a substantial amount of cricket for England since 1980 only (Robin Smith) has managed a Test batting average of 40 and only two of the bowlers has a Test bowling average of less than 30.
As for football, the only players in the immigrant/ethnic minority category to show themselves to be of true international standard are probably Paul Ince and Des Walker. It is difficult to see the sporting justification for the repeated and extensive selection of players such as Mark Ramprakash (lowest every batting average – 27 – for a front line England batsman who has played my than 40 Tests) or John Barnes (79 England caps and a man who rarely if ever reproduced his club form for England).
Perhaps the answer lies in political correctness, a desire on the part of selectors to guard themselves against accusations of racism or simply an ideological commitment to multiculturalism. Here is Stephen Wagg writing in Catalyst, the old CRE’s propaganda magazine funded by the taxpayer: “…it is important that this team [the England cricket side] speaks for a multi-ethnic England.” (Racism and the English cricket party – Catalyst June 2006).
There is also the attitude of the players consider. Some of those who have played for England have been blunt about their attitude towards turning out for the side. Here is ex-England captain Nasser Hussain interviewed by Rob Steen:
‘If anyone asks about my nationality, I’m proud to say ‘Indian’, but I’ve never given any thought to playing for India. In cricketing terms I’m English.’ Daily Telegraph 11 8 1989
Or take the black Jamaican England footballer John Barnes writing in his autobiography:
“I am fortunate my England career is now complete so I don’t have to sound patriotic any more.” (P69)
“I feel more Jamaican than English because I’m black. A lot of black people born in England feel more Jamaican than English because they are not accepted in the land of their birth on account of their colour, (P 71)
Clearly such mentalities exclude any emotional commitment to doing well for the sake of English pride. The most they could have been playing for was their own ambition. As the editor of Wisden Matthew Engel put it:
“It cannot be irrelevant to England’s long term failures that to many of their recent Test players were either born overseas and/or spent their formative years as citizens of other countries. In the heat of Test cricket, there is a difference between a cohesive team with a common goal, and a coalition of individuals whose major ambitions are for themselves…There is a vast difference between wanting to play Test cricket and wanting to play Test cricket for England.” (Editor’s notes 1995 Wisden).
In the 1990s an England cricket eleven was routinely comprised of something like five white Englishmen, two Southern Africans, a New Zealander and three West Indians. The idea that their captain could appeal to their patriotism as a team of Englishmen is risible. It is difficult to see how any English man or woman could have seen it as their national side.