Crossing The Line: The English Press and Anglo-German Football, 1954 – 1996




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The primary focus of this thesis is on representations of Germany and Germans in the sports pages of English newspapers from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, when EURO 96 generated press coverage that prompted much comment and criticism, both in England and in Germany. Studies focusing on media representations from the mid 1990s onwards, such as those by Maguire, Poulton and Possamai (1999), Garland and Rowe (1999) and Garland (2004) have been helpful in deconstructing the language used by football journalists and in identifying negative national stereotyping. More recently, however, Ramsden (2007) and Young (2007) have developed our understanding of Anglo-German cultural relations and how they have changed since 1945. In the light of these recent developments this thesis seeks, firstly, to analyse the discourses embedded within the ‘Two World Wars and One World Cup’ meta-narrative which has characterized press coverage of Anglo-German football since international fixtures between the two countries were resumed in 1954 and, secondly, to contextualize them in the broader history of Anglo-German cultural relations and how they developed over the forty years or so that followed.

Though drawing on some insights from both cultural and media studies the methodology employed is essential historical. This does not mean, however, that press reports and comment are regarded as unproblematic primary sources. Recent methodological approaches the history of sport, notably by Booth (2005) and Hill (2006), have pointed to the importance of viewing such sources as texts which are thus open to deconstruction. A complementary emphasis on historical context is nevertheless justified, principally because it is important to explain variations that have occurred over time. Though there were some similarities in the way that Anglo-German football was covered in 1954 and 1996 – and at various points in between - there are also striking differences which it is argued here are primarily explained by conditions prevailing at the particular historical junctures at which representations were generated. The relationship which existed between Britain and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was significantly different to that which existed between Britain and re-unified Germany in the 1990s. This was an important contingent factor and helps to explain variations in the deployment of journalistic discourses over the years. Thus this thesis breaks new ground in that it emphasizes the historical contextualization of representations over a long period and seeks to counter any tendency to look backwards from the viewpoint of the mid 1990s. The discussion proceeds chronologically from the 1950s to the 1990s in order to demonstrate variations in the way that discourses were deployed over the years. Thus the representations generated provide a way of reading the state of underlying Anglo-German relations at any given point. One chapter is devoted to the 1966 World Cup Final on account of its significance in press discourses relating to Anglo-German football and in what is popularly referred to in England as the 'thirty/forty years of hurt' that followed. Whereas academic attention in relation to football-related representations has previously concentrated on the downmarket tabloid press, this study is equally concerned with quality and middlemarket titles. Thus The Times and the Daily Express are considered alongside the Daily Mirror and the Sun. Finally – and in contrast to previous accounts which have considered the English press in isolation – a chapter on German newspaper coverage (principally Bild, Die Welt and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) has been included to allow some comparisons to be made and to point to directions in which future research might be pursued.



Football, Media Studies, British History, German History, Discourse Analysis, Cultural Studies, Newspaper Research, The Times, The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, The Guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Bild Zeitung



Research Institute