A Study in Hypocrisy

“Don’t mix politics and sport”, say the supporters of the cricket tour. “It was the South African government that first brought politics into cricket”, reply the tour’s opponents.

Certainly, sport ought to be played for fun and, certainly, the South African government applied their racist policy to cricket when they barred D’Oliveira. But we must say that this discussion has revealed great hypocrisy on both sides.

Take those who say you should not mix politics and sport. Where have they been living all these years? They cannot really think that international, competitive sport is played for fun. Quite apart from the fact that profession football clubs are commercial institutions employing wage workers to provide entertainment for sale, they must have noticed that every time England plays some “foreign” team is the occasion for patriotic outbursts in the sports pages and on the sports programmes.

The sports pages are perhaps the most dangerously political part of a newspaper. They churn out the crudest patriotic nonsense helping to sustain the illusion that Britain is a community all of whose members share a common interest. In identifying ourselves with “our” national team we are supposed to forget that we live in a class divided society. Oh yes, national sports teams have long had a very important political role to play. It is sports-page patriotism that paves the way for politicians to dupe us into fighting wars or accepting wage restraint in the bogus “national interest” (in reality the interests of our ruling class).

Those who want to stop the cricket tour because they, quite rightly, object to apartheid are no less hypocritical. The Right Reverend David Sheppard, former Test cricketer and the current Bishop of Woolwich, writing in The Times on 25 April on “The Cricket Tour and Christian Conscience” tried to explain why “the churches should speak out against a South African team, but not, for example, against the visit of a Russian football team”.

South Africa, he said, was specially relevant to Christians as apartheid was said to be “a defence of western Christian civilization”. This may explain why he would not demonstrate against a Russian football team but not why he would not protest at the visit of a Portuguese or Spanish or Greek team, all of whose governments justify their dictatorial rule as Christian (we are not inclined to quarrel with them on this in view of Christianity’s record).

The Bishop also argued:

There would only be a parallel if, say, Jews were rigorously excluded from selection for the Russian football team.

Now, as everyone knows, modern Russia like its Tsarist predecessor is the prison house of nationalities. If it is national oppression that the protestors are worried about they should be demanding that no Russian sportsman gets anywhere near Britain.

Luckily America does not play much cricket or football because its imperialist policies should make its sporting teams obvious targets for protest. Come to think of it, in view of Britain’s immigration colour bar our protestors ought to be ashamed that British teams go to India and the West Indies. They should be demanding that they stay at home.

Enough of this trivial nonsense. We have better things to do than get involved in arguments about whether the cricket tour should go ahead or not. We have enough to do working for the establishment of a frontierless world community which would liberate all mankind.