‘Bilin­gual­ism and sport are as­sets that can help sell Wales to the world’

Western Mail - - SATURDAYBUSINESS - SION BARRY Busi­ness ed­i­tor sion.barry@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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