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The Ashes is a uniting force for Britain

Image by Simon Wilkinson/

Shared rivalries against Australia and nostalgia for a time when Britain ruled the world means The Ashes unite the nation like no other sport, according to Loughborough University sports sociologist Dr Dominic Malcolm

Dr Malcolm, whose book Globalizing Cricket was published earlier this year, says the Ashes celebrate key aspects of what it means to be English (or British) – Empire and nostalgia.

And the unique county structure and inclusion of other home nations in the English team means spectators are less divided by club loyalties than in other sports like football.

Dr Malcolm said:

“Cricket is a team game that represents what it is to be English. It is our game, invented by us and played by a select group of our former Territories. It is the one sport which separates us from Europe or America. And the English love to see themselves as different.

“Englishness has been defined by Empire, and so has cricket. The Ashes stems from the Empire and continues to be important within the changing cricket landscape because it champions test cricket; It takes us back to a time when the English ruled the world and dictated how the game would be played, to a time when money was less important, when people played for honour.

“With any big rivalry it’s important both sides treat it the same way, and The Ashes is a key fixture in both the Australian and English cricket calendar.

“And because of Britons’ shared nostalgia and long history of sporting rivalry against the Australians, The Ashes achieves a unique level of support across the home countries.

“The 2005 victory reached a new high. The cricket was great, but for the first time cricket seemed to span the whole nation; men and women, various ethnic groups, and all social classes.

“So when the two month contest starts this week, we may not all be watching but we will all care. And we care because the Ashes speaks to who we are, where we've come from, and the way we'd like the world to be.”

Dr Malcolm is available for media interviews. Dr Malcolm is part of the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.