Playing Ball

At the moment polls are still fluctuating between a small lead for independence and a small lead for staying in a rapidly failing state (I know, I know).

That obviously means just over or just under half of the Scottish population support independence, and although people who work in some industries may be more one way or the other depending on the sector, Scottish sportspeople, apart from one or two notable exceptions, seem to be remarkably silent on the matter.

Guardiola.pngWriters, musicians, poets, businessmen, people in trade unions and from many other sectors seem to have no problem declaring that they are supporters of independence, high-profile sportspeople don’t seem to say anything on the matter.

Why would this be? It doesn’t seem to bother them in other countries. What reasons could there be that stop people in this sector stating their opinions on the issue?

Let’s have a look at some of the possible reasons…

  1. Being told not to – At a Yes event, the night before the first referendum, someone who was in a position to know and who I’ll just describe here as an influential person in the movement, told me that a captain of a certain football club, who is also an international player,  was a strong supporter of independence but had been told by his employers to keep his mouth shut about it. Perhaps the threat of losing lucrative contracts is being used to keep people from coming out in support of independence.
  2. Fear of losing funding from other bodies – Elite athletes go into a certain system in the UK. Elite athletes may fear the loss of funding. There is, of course, no reason an independent Scotland could not do the same thing, however there is some debate about if we would want to, as some have criticised the UK system of favouring elite athletes to the detriment of youth and local sports. The justification given for this elite model is usually that it helps to get more medals at the next Britnatfest, sorry, major sporting event.
  3. Fear of abuse – When Andy Murray (and his brother) came out for Indy on the day of the vote it led to some of the more, errrm, fervent unionists sending him an incredible amount of bile and hatred.1411001802017_wps_7_Andy_Murray_Tweet_2_jpgI won’t reproduce the sort of things they were saying about him as you’ve all seem them, but it was nasty.  As an aside, when Murray said he supported indy it seemed like it was done in a calculated fashion, like a last-minute try to gain an extra couple of percent. If that is true (and I really don’t know), then it was a miscalculation. It would have been great if Murray had declared early and people got to find out about it earlier on, instead of a tweet hours before the polls closed.
  4. Fear of being made a fool of – Most of us know that in the Scottish media in general and in many sections of the UK media, apart from the usual “ungrateful b*stard” type of narrative, any sportsperson who said something on what the media see as the wrong side of this debate would probably be ridiculed on the grand scale by any number of hacks whose jobs depend on them doing just that.
  5. Unionist explanation – With more or less half the population of Scotland supporting full independence, only the Murray brothers out of all the sportspeople in Scotland want to leave the UK. (I think we can rule this one out).

These are the possible reasons I can think of, and what they have in common, except number 5, is fear and some form of intimidation, and that can’t be allowed to go unchallenged, by any of us. We can’t allow fear to be used as a tactic to keep certain influential people’s mouths shut. If we let that happen, we’ve already allowed them to stop one of our best lines of attack, and one that the unionist side used frequently the last time round.

In that spirit, I’d like to say this… If you are a sportsperson reading this and support indy (or you know one who does), you are welcome to come onto the Scottish Independence Podcast and have a chat about it and I’ll get the story out and you will not be harassed on the show. If you’d like to tell a story about what I’ve suggested above anonymously, then drop me a line and provided I can verify you are who you say you are then I’ll do that too, or I’ll give it to someone who can get it out even wider than I can.

Sports Betting & Upper Class Yobs

I think I’m prepared to bet that we are going to see a stark example of the British class system in action in the next few months.

623-fox-hunting-900You see, at the Epsom Derby, which is a jolly day out for many of the more rah-rah elements of society, it seems that there was a bit of crowd trouble.

What I expect to see unfold is that the individual offenders will be singled out and put on trial, which is all as it should be.

One way that it will provide us with a clear example of the British class system is that if the offenders  turn out to be upper-class types, they will most probably be treated as individuals who became a little over-enthusiastic on the day. If they were not of the “right sort” then they will probably be much more harshly treated.

However, this won’t be the most glaring thing.

I’d bet my wife’s left ball (joke) that whatever happens, the people who frequent racecourses will not be subjected to the kind of collective punishment that all football supporters have to suffer because of the misbehaviour of a few.


There are image problems and there are image problems…

Formula one people seem to think that the major problem people have with their sport is that sometimes there isn’t enough overtaking.

It may however be that having people like Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone involved has something to do with it.

Here is Ecclestone’s recent outburst...


And just in case you had forgotten about it, here is a link to the story of the Ecclestone affair.

Sport & Politics DO Mix

Independence CelticContrary to the cliché, sport and politics DO actually mix. Whether you think that is a good thing or not is where the debate comes in.

Most people seem to like politics at football (or sport in general) as long as it is politics they agree with.

In order to see where you stand on the political issues you could compare your reactions to what Tommy Smith and John Carlos did at the Mexico Olympics or Emily Davidson becoming a martyr for the suffragette movement to some of the right-wing banners you see, for example, amongst the Serbian fans.

I was happy last night because there were two little political bits that I noticed that were both up my political street. At the Celtic V Barcelona match I was happy to see this banner in amongst the support…

But I’d have to say that yesterday the politics in football trophy goes to Greenpeace for their amazing protest which involved abseiling off the stadium roof and unfurling a huge banner at the Basel V Schalke match.

Here are a couple of videos of the event. I also notice that UEFA are blocking some of them…


Criticism In Unexpected Places

Amid the constant stream of “possibly divisive, but a hero nonetheless” sort of stuff that is coming out just now trying to resurrect she-who-must-not-be-named, I just stumbled on a rather surprising little bit of BBC output.

Five Live did a special called “Thatcher And Sport” yesterday, and if you can get over Dave Whelan and the other guy at the start, it turns out to be a rather critical and honest piece. They do try a little resurrection (metaphorically speaking, don’t panic) at the end but for the most part it is quite good.

Obviously, by only talking about the sporting aspect all they could bring up was Hillsborough, ID cards, covering up for the police, South Africa and Apartheid and a few other major outrages. This means they didn’t get round to the miners, milk, Pinochet, any other number of dictators, destroying the unions, selling off the country to the highest bidder, saying feminism was poison, the damage done to the media, Zircon, the poll tax, the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Greenham Common…

You can download it here.


You Can Hear That Special Olympic Spirit

Oh the camaraderie, the flag-waving and all that special olympic spirit is starting to build up.

The BBC, who will of course be the preferred jingoistic broadcaster for the event, had this to say

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed a sonic device will be deployed in London during the Olympics.

The American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) can be used to send verbal warnings over a long distance or emit a beam of pain-inducing tones.

The equipment was spotted fixed to a landing craft on the Thames at Westminster this week.


Royal Marines operating in patrol craft from HMS Ocean are also heavily armed with conventional firearms.

In an article that contains no criticism of the measure or dissenting voices whatsoever, the BBC goes on to do its bit for US arms sales too…

The piercing beam of sound emitted by the device is highly directional. Some versions of the LRAD are capable of producing deafening sound levels of 150 decibels at one metre.

But the device, which was used this week during Exercise Olympic Guardian, can also be used to broadcast verbal warnings, such as ordering crowds to disperse.

LRAD Corporation has previously sold the device to the US Army, which deployed them in Iraq for crowd control.

They have also been bought by the US Navy and Air Force as well as a number of police forces worldwide.

It gets worse if you read the article.



Red (Rose) Bull & Tory Tosso

So Labour wants  the Bahrain Formula 1 race boycotted and the Tories want to keep politics out of sport.

British Formula One drivers including Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton should boycott the Bahrain Grand Prix, Labour’s Yvette Cooper has said.

“I don’t think British drivers should go,” the shadow home secretary said.

Amnesty International has warned Bahrain faces a “human rights crisis” as security forces clash with protesters.

But senior Conservative MP John Whittingdale said politics should be “kept out of sport if at all possible”.


But shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who chairs the all party parliamentary group for democracy in Bahrain, told BBC 5live he would be “very pleased if the BBC pulled out” of covering the race.

“Organisations like the BBC are giving legitimacy to the al-Khalifa regime, which is… a dictatorial regime, which is killing many of its own citizens,” Mr Slaughter said.

Personally, I think it should be stopped but I find it strange that Labour are saying this about dictatorial regimes whilst their former leader can’t remember anything about rendition to other dodgy regimes and the conservatives are still trying to sell weapons to any other number of them.

Of course keeping politics out of sport is exactly what the Tories will be planning to do in the olympics. I am utterly convinced there won’t be any flag-waving, we’re-all-in-this-together, jingoistic or nationalistic kind of comments at all in the run up to and during the olympics.

Meanwhile of course, the race, the hypocrisy and the slaughter and repression will keep going round and round in the manner we have become accustomed to.

Not Exactly in the Spirit of the Thing

The term the ‘olympic spirit’ is somewhat misunderstood if you consider that in the ancient olympics, if you knew your opponent was better than you, it was quite the done thing to nip into his tent and night and snip is hamstrings thus clearing the way for your victory.

However, if you take it in its modern sense of meaning helping and improving humanity (in somewhat limited areas I grant you), fair play, trying to be the best and all the other sporting metaphors that shouldn’t always be used as a guide in other areas of life but far too often are, then something else that seems against the spirit of the thing is that  the word olympics is a registered trademark.

This isn’ t new however.

The United States Olympic Committee and Trademark Infringement forbids the use of ...

The words Olympic, Olympiad, Citius Altius Fortius, or any combination or simulation thereof tending to cause confusion, to cause mistake, to deceive, or to falsely suggest a connection with the corporation of any Olympic activity.

The London 2012 people have done the same thing. At a basic level this means that they could do you if, for example, you wanted to have a competition in your school (or technically even your back garden) called The ********* Secondary School Olympics as this might cause confusion with the real thing.

It’s an indicator that these major sports, although we may or may not find them, or bits of them, enthralling, are definitely not of the people in the way that they are often portrayed.

Every time one of them comes round in any country troublemakers are rounded-up beforehand and people are evicted from  their homes to make way for the tournament infrastructure. In the run-up to the China olympics there was much of this kind of thing in the media but for the London Olympics it has been there, but much less prominantly so.

Also, most of the money these tournaments escapes without doing any real good.

FIFA have been getting a bit of a going over in the media of late, the IOC could be doing with one too.