I used to think that politics should be kept out of sport but my view is changing. I recently enjoyed watching some of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang in South Korea and supporting Team GB. Last weekend I spoke with a friend in Korea, so naturally I asked if he had enjoyed the recent Winter Olympics held in his country.
He said that he had intentionally not watched any of it, because he felt that the South Korean Government had used it for political purposes, and he disagreed with giving the North Korean regime a propaganda coup by having the joint Korean team. Some people in Korea didn’t like what was happening so they exercised their choice of a personal boycott.
I remember the sporting boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and the boycott against South Africa during the Apartheid era. South Africa were expelled from FIFA in 1976 although nowadays FIFA appears less bothered about human rights, given that just last week, FIFA’s President attended a football match in Iran where 35 women were arrested because they tried to attend the match.
As I write, Russia is continuing to oversee a devastating military campaign in Syria, with hundreds of thousands of civilians besieged and relentlessly bombed, while the rest of the world appears powerless to stop it. I note that there is outrage if a politician tweets something inappropriate but where is the outrage at what Russia is doing in Syria? Where are the protests outside the Russian Embassy?
Yet come the middle of June, we will all be expected to cheer on our national teams as Russia showcases the FIFA World Cup - as if nothing has happened. Why are no UK or European politicians calling for a boycott of the Russian World Cup?
As a football fan, I’ve enjoyed watching every World Cup since Spain 82, but this year for the first time, I will be exercising a personal boycott and will not be watching any of it. For me, Russia’s hosting of the World Cup lacks any moral legitimacy.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
7th March 2018