Sport and politics; we’re doing it wrong

by Dom on June 8, 2011

Sport and politics…. Apparently they do mix.

It is often said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix. Stiff shit, Princess, they do mix. Sometimes it gets taken a little too far. And it is also true that there are very few things in life that are apolitical. And just because you think something is apolitical, I guarantee I could find someone who found it to be offensive or politicised. But that’s another point for someone else. The fact is, sport is for many of us an opiate we can’t get enough of, and politic is something we can’t see too little of, so when they mix, we get angry. But do we miss the point sometimes?

Recent history abounds with politicisation of sport. And not just because it can be used to highlight a negative overseas. Certainly, the protests around the 1971 and 1981 Springbok tours, boycotts of the Olympics, and Sino-American ping pong were all to highlight or influence an outcome in another part of the world, often for the better. More recently, for political and player-safety reasons, teams have decided not to tour Zimbabwe, and there have been decisions not to play international cricket matches in Pakistan as a result of incidents that have nothing to do with the cricketers. Indeed, purely from a cricket perspective, the conduct of Pakistani players is more concerning than anything else.

In the Pacific we currently have our very own version of these other issues playing out, revolving around Fiji’s place at the rugby world cup, and the make-up of their squad. While there is a travel ban in place relating to Fijians connected with the military regime, there has been no call from the Beehive about banning the Fiji team all together. Indeed, the All Blacks are will play a warm-up game against Fiji at Carisbrook. And the majority of Fiji’s decent players are already in New Zealand, Australia and Europe and Japan. The number who may be blocked at the airport is probably quite small.

My question is this: How much influence does this actually have? Of all the cases of sport and politics mixing , how many actually changed a foreign government’s policy? Or in the case of NZ and Fiji, the system of government? And what message does it send to the rest of the world? New Zealand pursues a free trade agreement with China, a supporter of Fiji, and a country with a few rights issues of its own to look at, but we palm-off those concerns under the veil of sovereignty. I smell a rat.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, but in reality isn’t this a non-issue? As Murray McCully said, “If you’re part of the military, you’re not coming; if you’re part of the government, if you’re a regime appointee, you don’t get to come.” Pretty simple really.

The examples in the second paragraph are serious, they highlight the place for politics in sport. The current attention to the Fiji and world cup issue is really a non-issue. Maybe we should just accept that Frank Bainimarama and his cronies will not be attending games in New Zealand and move on. There are far more important aspects of sport to get political about, especially in the Pacific. Politicise that!

Questions, comments, thoughts, retorts?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: