With the FIFA World Cup a matter of weeks away and tensions high between the UK and tournament hosts Russia, LSJ News explores previous instances of politically motivated boycotts in sport.
Throughout history, Government sanctioned boycotts of sporting events have taken place on a number of occasions . Poignantly, in 1930, the then Football Olympic Champions Uruguay were elected to host the first ever FIFA World Cup. 12 nations who had planned on competing withdrew, some citing travelling to South America as the issue, whilst all four of the home nations withdrew due to an on-going rift with FIFA.
One competition that is constantly riddled with political influence is the Olympics, rife with boycotts, and frequently involving Russia (previously the Soviet Union). The Moscow Olympics, 1980, saw the United States lead a wide ranging successful boycott that saw the withdrawal of 67 nations originally registered to compete. Four years later, in what is widely considered as retaliation, the Soviet Union and its allies boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984. They cited concerns over security, however commentators described it as politically motivated. Other Olympics majorly influenced by politics include Montreal, 1976 and of course Berlin, 1936.
Unfortunately in 2018, the problem of political influence in sport is rearing its ugly head again. A few weeks ago a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned whilst living in Salisbury in Wiltshire and it is suspected Russia were behind the attack. Although it is still currently under investigation, the British Government have already announced no Government officials or Royals will attend the world cup in Russia in the summer and are considering boycotting the tournament altogether.
Unlike many other instances of politicising sport in the past, such as the numerous sanctions regarding South Africa during the era of apartheid, one wonders what the impact of any British boycott would actually have. It seems highly unlikely that England withdrawing from the World Cup in Russia would have any impact on the Russian Government whatsoever. The only people to lose out if England were to abstain, would be the English players who have a maximum of four or five opportunities in their careers to play in a world cup, and the fans who look forward to these tournaments every four years. Whilst history has taught us, rightly or wrongly, that political agendas can be furthered when using sport as a vehicle, on this occasion, the potential impact of an English boycott this summer seems very limited.