British Council Wales is seeking expressions of interest (EOIs) from suitably qualified and experienced suppliers to undertake a high profile research project that will examine the role sport can play in Wales’ approach to international engagement.
The research will form part of our Imagining Wales’ Global Future series, which is exploring Wales’ soft power potential. Since its launch in April 2018, the series has featured two new research commissions, the Wales Soft Power Barometer 2018 (British Council / Portland) and a report on the feasibility of an International Showcasing Strategy for the Arts of Wales (British Council / Visiting Arts). Our intention is for the research on sport and soft power to be a focus of the series in summer 2019 as Wales looks forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wales and the soft power of sport
Our Wales Soft Power Barometer 2018 report detailed the findings of the first Regional Soft Power Index. The Index, which was designed by the creator of Portland’s annual Soft Power 30, combined over fifty objective metrics and international polling data.
The ten regions selected for the index were chosen according to approximate criteria, rather than a rigid formula, including: their level of devolved government authority, GDP size, population size, geographic spread, level of development and history of international ambitions and engagement. Wales placed 6th overall among the ten regions in the index, which was topped by Quebec.
Wales performed best in those objective and subjective measures associated with sport, polling second only to Catalonia in terms of the favourability generated by the appeal of its sporting culture.
This will come as no surprise to anyone with even a passing interest in sport.
Geraint Thomas carrying Y Ddraig Goch along the Champs-Élysées in the final, processional stage of the Tour de France; Dame Tanni Grey Thompson being proposed by the BBC as one if the ‘icons’ of the twentieth century; the Welsh men’s football team setting records and making friends during a memorable summer at Euro 2016. These are just some of the recent examples of the hugely positive, truly global profile generated for Wales through its sportspeople and sporting culture.
But it is not clear that Wales is making the most of sport as a way of building international engagement. Professor Laura McAllister, a former Wales football captain and senior figure in multiple sporting bodies, including Sport Wales, UK Sport and the FAW Trust, has written about the opportunities generated around the world through Wales’ footballing successes that have been largely missed. Wales, McAllister argues, needs to ‘harness [the profile of Welsh football] in an altogether more strategic and trenchant way than presently or miss another opportunity to ‘sell’ Wales to the world’.