Sir, Matthew Syed is only half right that Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph won’t yield much genuine “soft power” for the UK (July 8). Beyond individual performance, sport really can influence a country’s standing on the world stage.
Look no further than English Premier League football and Indian Premier League cricket. These are huge assets for the UK and India — worth a fortune in economic terms, but just as valuable for their power of attraction.
The appeal of these great brands doesn’t necessarily come from the performance of the Brits or Indians on their respective pitches. It’s the fact that they are truly international stages on which the world’s finest come to perform. The excitement and excellence generate fan bases in countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.
And with the right leadership, sport can change lives too. The Premier Skills programme that the British Council runs with the Premier League uses its brand and football to teach young people English worldwide and tackle social issues from the favelas of Brazil to the playing fields of Kabul.
So, in the well-deserved volley of praise for Andy Murray, let’s not forget the UK’s other world champions — our great leagues and tournaments which attract the world’s best and return a whole lot back.
Director of Strategy, British Council