‘Bilingualism and sport are assets that can help sell Wales to the world’
BILINGUALISM is one of Wales’ best assets and needs to be exploited more in promoting the country globally, believes Professor Laura McAllister.
Addressing a meeting of Cardiff Breakfast Club, Prof McAllister, of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, also said Wales needed to focus more on promoting its sporting achievements, as well as its coastline and landscape, to construct a new narrative for selling the country to the world post-Brexit.
Prof McAllister, who is also a Western Mail and WalesOnline columnist, said Wales needed to recognise and exploit the benefits of bilingualism through the speaking of Welsh and English.
She said: “If I write anything about bilingualism or the Welsh language in the Western Mail and WalesOnline, it is bound to generate more social media responses than anything else. And that is basically because we have got a chip on our shoulder about bilingualism.
“We need to face up to this. Bilingualism is an asset and we are fortunate in a having an ancient and historic language in Welsh alongside a major global language in English. And if we don’t milk that, we are doing something seriously wrong, quite frankly.”
She said the success of the men’s football team in the 2016 European Championships showed how football as a global sport could promote Wales, but that it still remained an untapped resource.
The former Welsh football international and chair of Sport Wales said: “Sport is currently not utilised sufficiently to sell Wales to the world. And in my opinion it should be front and centre of any post-Brexit reconceptualising of Wales.
“Sport gives you a huge emotional buzz, but it is such a simple thing and it has been said before that sport is significant because it isn’t significant. In the grand scheme of things, nothing would stop if we stopped playing sport, but life would be a lot less rich if we did.
“That is because I think playing and watching sport is about that simple emotion and physicality and all of the things we get from watching it, whether you are a fan of rugby, football or cricket... That joyous feeling of when your team wins and that horrible feeling when your team loses.
“But sport is serious because it has a very different and currently untapped power and reach. Apart from the health and wellbeing benefits, opportunities for children to integrate and so on, it offers a platform for growth economically and it also allows this small country of Wales, which is currently lacking a seductive and global USP [unique selling point], to develop that.
“So sport can become our USP and it can propel us to the next stage of how we sell our small nation to the world. And believe me, after Brexit we need to start thinking about how we do that.” She said football, as the world’s biggest sport, reaches markets that rugby and others sports can’t.
She added: ”The European football market is worth an estimated €20bn. So when we went to the Euros and did so well, this was the first time people saw Wales as an equal, independent nation playing sport at the highest level and doing it well. And it wasn’t just reaching the semi-finals but the way we approached it and the way the players opened themselves up to meet people in Brittany, and the way also our social media feeds were completely bilingual, showing how important the Welsh language was to fans.
“So we had that opportunity and stage, and I think it showed just how vast and still untapped the potential of football is. It is what they call ‘soft power’ and the influencing and alliances you can build in trying to sell a nation to the world.”
Prof McAllister said that as well as leveraging sport and bilingualism, Wales should do more to promote its landscape and coastline to boost its tourism sector.
She added: “We have got one of the most beautiful coastlines and landscapes of anywhere in the world, but I think we are underselling our tourism potential.” Cardiff Breakfast Club is sponsored by Effective Communication, Lloyds Bank, Stills Branding, the Western Mail and Blake Morgan.
> Prof Laura McAllister