Britain should use Premier League football to help promote stability in Libya because its 2011 bombing campaign created such animosity towards foreign intervention, according to a secret paper commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and seen by ITV News.
The research found that the ability of the British government to influence policy in Libya had been eroded by the impact of its military action.
The 2013 paper suggested that Britain should consider a different response:
“The UK’s admired institutions – from the Scout Association to UK universities to the British police to the English Premier League – can quietly offer enormous influence through building partnerships for the long term.”
But the paper said there was only so much that British organisations were able to do.
“Ultimately, Libyan stability will only be won by Libyans. The UK can do much valuable work by providing assistance, but the antipathy caused by any foreign intervention means it must move cautiously.”
“All programmes must be led by, and at the invitation of, Libyans, with the UK in an advisory role.”
The report found that Libyans were “receptive to democracy” and noted “a powerful desire for a strong and forceful leader”.
But its authors warned that social and political instability was causing hope to “drain away” among parts of the population. Many young men are “drifting into a state of aimless cynicism and self-interest” due to the political chaos.
The report’s researchers interviewed 3,000 Libyans and distributed their findings across Whitehall to help policy-makers understand the political chaos in the country.
But the research, carried out two years before self-styled Islamic State captured the port city of Sirte, rejected claims that extremist groups were the catalyst for instability.
“Militia members are neither determined ideologues nor natural hotheads” it said.
Young Libyan men joined such groups because of “payment, peer-group respect and ad hoc community defence” it said.
An MOD spokesman said: “This report aimed to further our understanding of internal Libyan political dynamics and public attitudes towards political instability and foreign intervention.”