We analyse Gareth Southgate’s
open letter, Dear England

Home » Blog » We analyse Gareth Southgate’s
open letter, Dear England

 

One thousand.


 

That’s the number of racist Tweets directed at England football players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, that were removed from the platform in the 24-hour period following the EUFA Euro 2020 final.

That excludes the racist posts circulating on Facebook and Instagram, for which, the number remains unknown…

Just two weeks on, and Lewis Hamilton has found himself similarly targeted after his victory at the British Grand Prix.

Despite decades of powerful awareness campaigns, education initiatives, gestures and symbols, sport still has a BIG racism problem.

Feeling utterly dejected and disgusted in the wake of this, Creature & Co. decided to revisit Gareth Southgate’s powerful open letter, Dear England.

Originally published in early June (in response to fans booing players for taking the knee), it’s heartbreaking to read knowing what was still to come. Yet, it’s poignant, progressive and honest – and a beautifully written piece of content.

But what is it that makes this piece of prose so powerful? We decided to do some analysis, in the hope that it would inspire purpose-driven content creators to create more brilliantly powerful content. We certainly need it.

 

It’s personal.

And it’s authoritative. Who better to speak to England fans, than the manager of the national team, himself? Southgate’s words have a directness that gives the illusion of a one-to-one dialogue, something that’s only enhanced by the letter-style format. From the title, “Dear England”, to the frequent use of the pronoun “we” (not used as the ‘royal we’, but as a show of solidarity and mutuality), to the sign-off, “Yours, Gareth Southgate”.

There’s an informality to his words. These haven’t been concocted by a press secretary; formalised, impersonalised and compressed into a short, emotionally removed statement. The reader feels these words – feels them coming directly from Southgate himself. You can almost picture him in your mind’s eye, pouring over them, painstakingly writing every sentence.

 

It’s relatable.

And it’s cross-generational. Southgate recounts a nostalgic tale of a humble background and growing up as a young, English football fan.

Content creators and marketers have long known the effects of nostalgia on engagement (Buzzfeed made an entire business out of it). It triggers an emotional response – feelings like comfort, happiness, security and longing. But further than that, nostalgia drives much deeper personal connections between reader and subject matter.

The letter touches on the values of Southgate’s grandad’s generation, the football heroes of the 1980s, and the paternal instincts he feels towards the youth of today. Regardless of age, demographic and your personal feelings on football, how many English people wouldn’t be able to relate to at least one small part of it? Arguably, very few. And further than that even, it has the potential to cross cultures, too. You could do a ‘Find & Replace’ search of the word ‘England’ and insert pretty much any other country, and many would still be able to relate to it.

 

It’s emotive.

Let’s have a look at a selection of nouns, verbs and adjectives Southgate utilises in his letter:

Pride / Emotion / Experience / Profound / Fierce / Protect / Desire / Memories

Any one of these words holds a personal meaning for readers. It’s a highly emotive choice of diction that tugs on the readers’ heartstrings and implores them to bring their own personal feelings to the piece.

 

It tells a story.

Storytelling is one of our most powerful forms of communication – it’s a format we’re raised on as children and continue to enjoy throughout our whole lives. In the case of Dear England, Southgate follows a typical, storytelling structure, split into beginning, middle and end. Each section cleverly seeks to establish three things in turn, building up to placing the onus on the reader:

1. Why he, Southgate, cares.
2. Why the players care.
3. Why we, the reader, should care.

 

It paints a positive picture of the future.

This is a storytelling technique that we treasure at Creature & Co. It’s a common trait of human nature to disengage with things that make us feel dejected or disheartened. We simply switch off – it’s a self-preservation thing. But what’s known to galvanise people? Hope. And Southgate certainly recognises that.

His vision of an inclusive England that we can all feel proud of, is contagiously hopeful. It acknowledges individuality – that England means different things to different people – while simultaneously promoting a shared sense of togetherness. It speaks to the staunch England fans, but it also speaks to the wavering fans – disenchanted by its racist associations – giving them hope to believe, too.

It’s clear that these issues won’t be solved by the words of one man, in one letter, but it’s also clear that Gareth Southgate is a wonderful wordsmith. Perhaps a career change is in order…

At Creature & Co., we believe in the power of content to educate, alter perceptions and spark change. We see it in action every day in the purposeful content we create – it informs, inspires and empowers people.

Take our Managing Director, for example. He can’t stand football, partly due to the negative reputation of some of its fans. Yet after reading Dear England, he found a totally different perspective and respect for the game, and for Southgate himself – he truly believed in his ideals. In fact, he actually found himself cheering England on!

Gemma Chandler is Content Director
at Creature & Co.

 

Image ⓒ Getty (1063183058).