Friday, 24 May 2024

Liberal Future Debate (3) – Do Sport And Politics Mix?

FC Barcelona seem to have no problem mixing sport and politics.

Do sport and politics mix? That’s the question posed by Liberal Future’s third debate.

At first glance, one would expect the answer to be a simple yes or no. However, on reflection, the question is maybe not as clear cut as one would think.

That’s because both the establisments of various nations as well as political activists opposed to such states have become involved in mixing sport and politics to one degree nor another.

Totalitarian regiemes in particular use sport to project an image of the state itself. Usually this image is very macho, ‘urgent’ and efficient. The 1936 Summer Olympics, held in National Socialist Germany would probably be the best example of this.

However, liberal democratic states aren’t exactly behind the door when it comes to using sport to promote an ‘approved’ image. However, the techniques are slightly more subtle than those employed by totalitarians. Here, ‘economic growth’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘regeneration’ are the watchwords. One of the best examples here must be London Mayor Boris Johnston using the 2012 Summer Olympics as a homage to capitalism.

Sport has often been used as a recruiting ground for anti-establishment and extremist political groups as well.

For instance, in football some Ultras groups have definite politcal leanings. In Scotland, Celtic’s Green Brigade is an “openly political” group. It would see itself as anti-fascist, anti-racist and pro-Irish Republican. (1) Hamburg-based FC St. Pauli is another club which attracts leftist Ultras. (2, 3)

Rightist Ultras groups include Lazio’s Irriducibili who are largely a fascist grouping (4) and Real Madrid’s Ultras Sur (5) who appear to be National Socialist/Nazi in outlook.

In Britain, FC Barcelona (6) seems to be everyone’s favourite second club. But how many people who wear the famous claret and blue kit know that the club effectively mixes sport and politics with its proud promotion of all things Catalonian:

“The slogan “more than a club” expresses the commitment that Futbol Club Barcelona has maintained and still maintains beyond what belongs in the realm of sport. For many years, this commitment specifically referred to Catalan society, which for many decades of the 20th century lived under dictatorships that persecuted its language and culture. Under these circumstances, Barça always supported Catalan sentiments, and the defense of its own language and culture. It was because of this that, even though Catalan was not an official language, in 1921 the club drafted its statutes in the language of Catalonia. It was also in this era that in 1918 the club adhered to a petition for a statute of autonomy for Catalonia, which was being demanded from all sectors of the catalanista movement.”

We could go on forever and a day highlighting the ‘official and ‘unofficial’ links between politics and sport, but two more examples should suffice.  When MP Peter Hain (7) was a student, he engaged in a campaign of non-violent direct action aimed at opposing the South African cricket team’s 1970 tour of Britain. Years later, Margaret Thatcher (8) sought a British boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Therefore the question remains: Do sport and politics mix? Let us know your views – simply check out the debate at Facebook/Liberal Future today!

CHECK OUT Liberal Future’s first debate here:

CHECK OUT Liberal Future’s second debate here:









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