There's been a rush of opinion in the media this week regarding the news that MPs will be voting on whether England should have a national anthem separate to 'God save the Queen' recognised as the anthem for the United Kingdom.
Well I've been banging on this bandwagon for aeons, in fact every time I watch a national sporting event you can hear me berating the fact that there is no mention of England (at least in the couple of verses heard around various stadiums) so how are teams expected to be fired up to play at their best for a posh lady in a crown? Some might say that a national anthem shouldn't/really affect your prowess on the pitch but come on... I challenge you to sing the Irish sporting anthem without feeling a surge of pride and the desire to pound your opponents into the ground - even though your only contact with the Emerald Isle is via Craggy Island in the 1990s!
A national anthem at sporting events is important. Athletes are out there representing their country and it allows the loyal, paying supporters to bond with their team; for that one moment they are one. However, before I start waving flags, England's national anthem issue is an ancient problem that needs resolving. Look at the other home nations: Scotland have their flower as they proudly fight for hill and glen; Wales stand brave and true for their land; Ireland's modern anthem written to encompass players from both sides of the border may not appease political persuasions but at least the effort was made to raise sporting spirits as one nation. The symbolism here of strong athletes marching forwards together is not lost in all three anthems.
Can the same be said of all three anthems that seem to be in rotation for English squads. Firstly God Save the Queen; patriotic yes but singing to make a monarch 'happy and glorious' amidst the throes of submission as she 'reigns over us' will hardly bring about the drive to beat down the All Blacks after the Haka will it?
Cricket has long since favoured Blake's Jerusalem which does refer to England's green and pleasant land and has the rousing line of 'I will not cease from mental fight' but has a tune reminiscent of church hymns which inspires images of quaint village greens, cucumber sandwiches, vicars and straw boaters; jarring with the rivers of mud heaving with rucks and mauls.
Then there's Land of Hope and Glory. The flag waving anthem concluding the Last Night of the Proms seems to be a front runner in many polls as the favourite replacement anthem at sporting events. But as a child of the 80s I can't help but be reminded of the sitcom It ain't half hot mum which ended with it being sung in a 'comedy' Indian accent and clearly the reference to Empire with 'wider and wider' bounds being set, I'm not the ancestors of slaves would agree that we should be extolling any 'Mother of the Free'. Free being an oxymoron on so many levels.
So is it just a song to be rolled out at the ceremonial entrance and exit of international sporting events? With a contrast of anthem choices between rugby union, cricket,rugby league, and even the men and women's lacrosse teams differ, I would say no, it's more than that. But I would argue against the daft suggestions of modern pop songs from the likes of Blur, The Beatles or Kate Bush but do agree that if you're representing England then one song should suffice.
This post can also be found on my rugby rookies page