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Sport has been used as a diplomatic tool for generations. From the Olympics every four years to President Obama’s baseball game to mark the normalisation of relations with Cuba, showcasing sporting exploits is a long-established way for countries to build or reinforce bonds of friendship and bring international attention to national sports.

With the so-called ‘special relationship’ in decline at the same time that securing a post-Brexit FTA with the US has become a strategic priority, the UK government should incentivise the Football Association (FA) to export, post-COVID-19, the Community Shield football match to America to help strengthen the Anglo-American connection. The Community Shield, a one-off game between the winners of the previous year’s Premier League and FA Cup respectively is the ideal product to be exported and the FA should recognise the benefits moving it abroad could bring.

Part of what makes the special relationship unique is that it is not merely a strategic alliance at the highest levels of government, but a connection between two peoples based on a perception of shared cultural values. Moving a marquee match up in the English football calendar to the US would hopefully capture the imagination of the public in much the same way that the NFL International Series has done in Britain, and contribute to strengthening the two nations’ cultural bonds.

The idea of taking the Community Shield abroad has been kicked around for years now, but has made little headway. The precise reasons for this are unclear; some of it can simply be attributed to inertia and the short-term fixed costs of moving the match, while clearly there’s also the tradition of playing the fixture in the UK. However, levels of domestic affection for the Community Shield aren’t particularly high and playing the fixture abroad has the potential to have a substantial impact. The Spanish and Italian equivalents of the Community Shield have already been moved abroad, with in both cases Saudi Arabia paying an exorbitant sum for the right to host them. These examples serve as success stories but also cautionary tales. It is important that the Community Shield is moved to a country that can afford to support the match but it is equally important that the nation chosen shares our values. The US is the obvious candidate that fits this criterion. The FA should recognise the symbolic message that exporting a marquee fixture abroad sends about Britain’s global ambitions, and with legitimate international uncertainty about our geopolitical role post-Brexit, such a gesture would reinforce that we are planning to reinforce our soft power and retain a central role on the world stage.

There’s massive American appetite for good English football; a couple of years ago, over 100,000 fans crammed themselves into the Michigan stadium to watch Manchester United take on Liverpool in a friendly. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that a competitive game for an illustrious trophy would be an even bigger draw. Beyond the Michigan match example, the growing interest in soccer in America is an encouraging sign for potential interest in high quality English football. These background conditions makes it likely the proposal will be profitable, which in itself provides a justification for the FA making this decision. However, if financial worries remain then the government should recognise the value that this project could have for transatlantic relations and assist the FA with start up costs.

While this proposal won’t alter the special relationship by itself, exporting the Community Shield to America is an example of precisely the kind of imaginative idea required to reinforce transatlantic bonds in this time of global upheaval. When we finally exit the COVID-19 pandemic, live sport is likely to be more sought after than ever before,  the UK government and the FA should take advantage of that by exporting one of our marquee football fixtures to America and demonstrate the continuing bond between our two nations.

Jordan is an intern at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.