ABSTRACT

Regulatory flexibility means that many competitors now have a choice as to which country to represent in international sporting competition. The increased prevalence of nationality swapping highlights distinctions between national identity and sporting citizenship. In soccer, countries with limited pools of players to draw on can access a wider array of talent, while for players themselves it offers the chance of competing on an international stage that might otherwise be denied them. The Republic of Ireland men’s football team has drawn heavily on the extensive Irish diaspora in Britain to augment its playing squad. In addition, some Northern Ireland-born players have elected to play for the Republic. These apparent ‘defections’ have engendered considerable controversy. This phenomenon and the reactions to it form the focus of this chapter. For some northern-born players, switching to the Republic appears motivated by cultural or political considerations. While swapping to the Republic team has provoked some negative reactions, there appears to be a growing acceptance of the situation and a reluctant understanding that players may wish to explore the options open to them.