International Politics & the Football World Cup
Controversy. It’s a word that follows Russia through the coldest winter day to the heights of summer; from deepest Siberia to the highest echelons of the Kremlin. And it’s hardly surprising at the moment. An international relations battle is ensuing between Russian and the rest of the world over chemical attacks, football hooliganism, Syria, a billion-dollar investment in West London and predominately, whether Boris Johnson’s or Donald Trump’s hairstyle is a greater threat to Russian values (maybe….)
Donald and Boris attempting their best ‘windswept and interesting’ look
Yet the doors have opened and the Motherland prepares to welcome fans, teams and journalists as the Football World Cup 2018 kicks off in Moscow on 14th June.
Amid these tensions, the question I’m wondering is, has this resulted in less of a media frenzy over the Football World Cup?
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which brought with it the humiliation of Brazil at the hands of Germany; futbol being played for miles along Copacabana beach and an accidentally memorable ITV theme tune in “Brazeeeel, braziiiiiiiiiiillllll’, will be our source of comparison against Russia 2018.
In the build-up, which tournament was mentioned more in online news?
Graph demonstrating the volume of articles on the Football World Cup in online news
*Time period reflects the penultimate week before the World Cup
** Only includes the top Newspapers & Sources
When comparing the volume of articles in the UK in the penultimate week before the World Cup in 2014 and 2018, this year’s had over twice the volume when compared to Brazil, moreover reach is significantly higher for Russia than Brazil. This marked difference could be put down to a number of factors.
Graph demonstrating the reach of articles on the Football World Cup
Firstly, we must consider the significant changes in the way people consume news. This has made online news significantly more important, as major news outlets focus more on online than 4 years ago. As a result, levels of reach are naturally higher than 4 years ago.
This closely relates to the emergence of social media as a platform for news intake and sharing online new stories, although news consumption on social media has stagnated all over the world except in the UK and USA.
Finally, this volume trend doesn’t represent the tone and sentiment of the articles. Are these articles predominately about corruption and scandal surrounding the tournament? The latest footballer tattoo? Or are they merely expressing astonishment that Nacho Monreal beat Marcus Alonso to a place in the Spain squad?
We don’t know from this data alone, which brings us onto….
Volume of negative stories in relation to Russia 2018
To dive further into the political effects on the World Cup, I have created a search string intent on discovering which country received a higher level of adverse keywords online. I’ve used keywords such as “scandal”, “corruption” and “misallocation” within the search and then compared search results with the total volume of articles to give a percentage of adverse/corrupt coverage.
Graph comparing the % of negative articles for the 2014 vs 2018 World Cup in the penultimate week
To answer the question browsing at the back of your brain…..Yes! This is correct! The World Cup in Brazil actually had a higher percentage of adverse articles per volume than this year’s in Russia. This phenomenon at first glance seems surprising, but on closer inspection a few conclusions can be made as to why this is the case.
To begin explaining this, we firstly must look closely at what was being said about the Brazil World Cup in the lead up to the tournament. A lot of the focus was over whether the stadiums would be ready in time and it was touch and go until very near until the first game.
Then with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being discussed with questions over bribes and poor working conditions for workers, these concerns were often appearing when referring to the World Cup in Brazil. Crucially, we have to remember that Sepp Blatter still had his fingers firmly in the sultry FIFA pie and was under investigation for corruption in FIFA….hardly stories that will attract positive headlines.
For me through, these stats show me that although politics and football can overlap, the impact of politics on football isn’t as powerful as first thought. Yes, clearly there is an impact and the politics within FIFA will still be a concern for many years to come.
But let’s look at the facts of the current situation. Russia is currently at the centre of the world in terms of political scandal and yet that hasn’t rubbed off too badly on World Cup coverage….the politics and reality of the world doesn’t seem to matter. Football will always be an escape for people, a chance to forget about the internal affairs of their own country (Brexit springs to mind for the UK!) and support their team on the national stage, where people of all races and cultures come together under the banner of Football.
So clearly when it comes to the beautiful game not even a poisoned Russian in Salisbury or a certain billionaire’s rejected visa can get in the way of people celebrating this global event. As long as Qatar 2022 doesn’t stem from a corrupt bid, use practical slave labour to build its stadiums and have a schedule clash with nearly every major league in the world then we will be fine…..wait, what do you mean it does?!? Oh dear….
|Olly’s Ones To Watch in Russia….
I can’t write about the Football World Cup without highlighting which countries to watch….according to social media conversations. I set out to discover which country was being mentioned most on social media in Russia, compare it with the rest of the world and see why some of these countries were being talked about.
Tournament favourites, Brazil, aren’t favourites when it comes to conversations as they rank 3rd, behind Argentina (2nd) and England (1st). In general, the favourites make up the top 8 mentions, with Germany & France making up 4th and 5th place. Argentina’s strong performance is no doubt down to Messi’s influence – and certainly helped by a recent tweet that promised anyone who retweeted him a Messi Argentinian football shirt if Argentina wins the World Cup.
And with England most mentioned, could this be a ’66 rerun? Well….no, it’s highly unlikely. The Premier League is the most watched league in the world, and the world at large is just wondering how quickly England will drop out the tournament.
In Russia, England again are the most mentioned country. This is due, again, to the Premier League but also to the recent political tensions, and the threat of hooliganism against English fans. Russia very much reflects the global trend in terms of Argentina and Brazil appearing 2nd and 3rd too. Again, Argentina is boosted here by a relentless amount of mentions of how this is Messi’s last chance and how the world is supporting him.
Whilst I wouldn’t advocate placing any bets on the basis of these social media conversations, I can tell you this much: Looking at the coverage Russia and and the World has given to each team, the team most people want to see fail is England and the team most people want to win is Leo Messi…..I mean Argentina!
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