Who exactly is British?

Earlier this week the UK national media was getting itself all worked up about the fact that, for the first time in decades, there were British tennis players in the both the men’s and women’s quarter finals at Wimbledon.

Of course, it does rather depend on how you define British. After all, Johanna Konta was born in Australia of Hungarian parentage and spent much of her teenage years in Spain. She only took out British citizenship in 2012 and continues to hold Australian and Hungarian passports.

British Tennis has form when it comes to adopting foreign players. Take Aljaz Bedene, the Slovenian born player who wants to play for Britain in the Davis Cup, even though he has already represented his homeland in that same tournament.

It’s unfair to single out tennis for criticism here. In rugby, the British Lions squad which has just returned from New Zealand contained no fewer than seven players born outside the British Isles, including three Kiwis!  And then there is Eoin Morgan, an Irishman who is the current captain of the England Cricket team.

Immigration is a political hot potato in the UK right now, thanks in no small measure to the Brexit vote. It seems that the British public want immigration to be reduced and controlled, but not apparently when it comes to the world of sport.

Those people, and newspapers, who endlessly complain about “foreigners coming here and taking our jobs”, seem strangely relaxed when it comes to the number of foreign players in English football. Less than a third of players in the Premiership are actually English.

One final thought, Andy Murray’s defeat against Sam Querrey on Wednesday has already resulted in the London media once again describing him as Scottish rather than “British”. If Johanna Konta doesn’t win a major soon, they may well start describing her as “Australian”.

Ends

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