Written by: Tom Bennett– Client Director, Racepoint Global London
The reaction to Declan Rice’s decision to switch his international allegiance to England shows just how thorny an issue national identity is.
Here in the Racepoint Global Sports team, we watched the media and social media reaction with interest.
Many columnists – like Eni Aluko in The Guardian - were sympathetic to the fact a 20 year-old with dual nationality might choose to make the switch.
Many more – including my Republic of Ireland supporting colleague Danny - were uncomfortable with the fact Rice was leaving behind a national team he had represented since he was a schoolboy. Stan Collymore was understanding of Rice’s decision but criticised the FIFA rules that allowed for him to make the switch. Paddy Power also got involved with a clever video promoting their loyalty scheme.
However mixed the reaction, my view is Rice ensured maximum support with the mature way he approached the decision. His statement showed full respect for both parties and presented a clear and well-reasoned case for the move.
It’s worth comparing the reaction here with Rice’s Hammers team mate Jack Wishere, who got himself in hot water a few years ago when talking about the rights and wrongs of Adnan Januzaj playing for England.
Where Wilshere was effectively labelled a bigot by the mainstream media for offering his honest but stark assessment that Januzaj should not qualify for England, Rice has been commended for his eloquence and maturity.
Although the cases are of course not quite like-for-like - the disparity makes clear the value of communication, and a well-executed and through statement. Especially when it comes to matters as explosive as national identity.