Is there a historical reason soccer teams are referred to in the plural?

Reading World Cup coverage has me wondering about why teams are referred to as if they were plural. For example, if the English team scores early the reporter might write “England were ahead early.” rather than “England was ahead early.” Is there some interesting story behind this way of referring to soccer teams?

In British English, collective nouns like “England” are treated as plural.

It’s the Royal We. :smiley:

As I understand it, this is the answer.

In American English, we treat these two very similar sentences differently:

“Green Bay was ahead early.”
“The Packers were ahead early.”

Green Bay, as a city (or England, as a country), is a singular noun. But, in the context of a team, “England” is effectively a shortened version of “the English national football team,” and, as Rysto notes, that’s a collective noun (it’s a group of players).

I always find this funny when watching English football coverage, until I stopped noticing I guess. Other languages just use the singular. I’m positive about Dutch and German at least.

You’ll often see this British/American English difference in reference to bands (“Coldplay are…” vs. “Coldplay is…”)

And there are collective nouns in US English too: “The police are investigating.”

And of course, there’s some inconsistency. “The Police are defunct; but U2 is still going strong”

I think that’s mostly related to the “The” at the beginning of the band’s name. U2 doesn’t take one so they appear linguisticly like a singular.

Try it with Talking Heads; if you add a “The” it changes what sounds right:

[ul]
[li]The Talking Heads are defunct[/li][li]Talking Heads is defunct[/li][/ul]

Do they both sound correct to your ears?