In BrE, collective nouns can take either singular (formal agreement) or plural (notional agreement) verb forms, according to whether the emphasis is on the body as a whole or on the individual members respectively; compare a committee was appointed with the committee were unable to agree. The term the Government always takes a plural verb in British civil service convention, perhaps to emphasize the principle of cabinet collective responsibility. Compare also the following lines of Elvis Costello's song "Oliver's Army": Oliver's Army are on their way / Oliver's Army is here to stay. Some of these nouns, for example staff, actually combine with plural verbs most of the time.
In AmE, collective nouns are almost always singular in construction: the committee was unable to agree. However, when a speaker wishes to emphasize that the individuals are acting separately, a plural pronoun may be employed with a singular or plural verb: the team takes their seats or the team take their seats, rather than the team takes its seats. However, such a sentence would most likely be recast as the team members take their seats. Despite exceptions such as usage in The New York Times, the names of sports teams are usually treated as plurals even if the form of the name is singular.
The difference occurs for all nouns of multitude, both general terms such as team and company and proper nouns (for example where a place name is used to refer to a sports team). For instance,
BrE: The Clash are a well-known band; AmE: The Clash is a well-known band.
BrE: Spain are the champions; AmE: Spain is the champion.
Proper nouns that are plural in form take a plural verb in both AmE and BrE; for example, The Beatles are a well-known band; The Saints are the champions, with one major exception: largely for historical reasons, in American English, the United States is is almost universal.
 Verb morphology
See also: English irregular verbs...