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Can Football Make Scotland a Fairer and Happier country?

Can Football Make Scotland a Fairer and Happier country?

By Grant Jarvie

University of Edinburgh and Toronto


Football, including Scottish football, can provide us with reasons to be cheerful. Along with other sports, football, by far Scotland’s most popular sport, can contribute to Scotland  being a happier place.

Sport is key element in New Zealand’s progressive march to making it a happier nation. No longer is progress measured as simply a contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is more than 2% in the case of Scottish sport.  Alternatively, progress is viewed in terms of the extent to which social, cultural, economic and physical capital can help to reduce the happiness and well-being divide in New Zealand.

The Scottish Captain Andy Robertson recently pointed out that “ football can only do so much when people have suffered loss like they have , made sacrifices for the greater good and we’re all slowly trying to rebuild”. 

A lot is made of Scotland bouncing back better from the pandemic. The next two weeks is an opportunity to be more positive about what football can deliver both on and off the park. .

The Scottish Government have allowed the football championships to go ahead. The Scottish Football Association have complied with what they have been asked to do. The football detractors will of course have their say but the proverbial bottle is  more than half full here.

The fact that Scotland is hosting 4 football matches at Hampden and assisting to deliver the UEFA Euros 2020 Football Championships is socially, culturally and economically significant.

One of the crucial lessons from the pandemic has been to fully recognise the importance of social relationships and networks particularly, but not solely, within underserved communities.

Families kept apart during the pandemic and most importantly generations of families have already started talked about great Scottish football moments. The winners here are less important than the fact that football has and is helping to facilitate conversations, contact and the social networks that have been affected so much by COVID. 

STV estimate that 1 in 5 Scots, at least 19% of the population will follow the championships on TV alone. It is estimated that up to 12,000 people may attend the matches at Hampden. Something that is a degree of economic relief to the SFA and the City of Glasgow.

The significance of Euro 2020  is reflected in the fact that both the BBC and STV in Scotland have unveiled a multi-platform bonanza of coverage.

The significance of the event is not just that it is the first time since 1998 that Scotland have qualified for a major men’s football championship finals. It builds upon the women qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the hosting of the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in 2016.

Scotland helping to host the Euros 2020 is no small thing. Even in a pre-pandemic world not every nation in the world had the capacity, capability and or opportunity to stage major sporting events.

Covid 19 has impacted upon the events business across the world. Many reports indicate that full confidence in the international sports events business will not be restored until at least 2023.

The events in Glasgow will remind international communities that Scotland is good at hosting major sports events. The Euro’s  not only enforces the contemporary reality that  Scotland is still a football nation but also that as a country the capability and knowledge to run successful international sporting events is something that Scotland is good at.

Football in particular and sport in general delivers social capital in Scotland’s communities in bucket loads.



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