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Politics v Sport – Five famous sporting boycotts

Date: 2nd June 2015


Scotland’s friendly against Qatar on Friday evening at Easter Road has attracted a great deal of interest and criticism. The poor human rights record of the National Team’s opponents, coupled with their controversial ward of the 20122 FIFA World Cup has led to many within and outwith Scottish football calling for the Scottish FA (SFA) to boycott the fixture. Yesterday, the SFA announced that they would not be doing so and defended their choice of fixture as a warm up to the Euro 2016 qualifier against Republic of Ireland later this month in Dublin.

Despite the SFA’s insistence that the match will go ahead, many fans have voiced their concern and declared that they will not be attending. Here, Scottish Fans looks at five previous sporting boycotts and why they came about…


1. 1980 Moscow Olympic Games

In protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the year before, the United States led a boycott that saw only 80 out of 147 nations compete at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Despite Britain agreeing to the boycott, many British athletes competed under the Olympic flag at the games, securing five gold medals; including Seb Coe winning gold in the 1500m and Steve Ovett in the 800m. It remains perhaps the most famous sporting boycott of all time.

2. 1970 South Africa cricket tour of England

Another incredibly sensitive political situation, with strong opposition to South Africa’s impending tour of England due to the apartheid regime. After a request from the then Home Secretary James Callaghan, the tour was cancelled, with a hurried replacement of five tests against a ‘Rest of the World’ select team.

3. 1930 FIFA World Cup in Uruguay

When the first ever World Cup was hosted in Uruguay in 1930, one imagines that few at the time could conceive the competition becoming the commercial giant it is today. Many European nations opted not to compete, citing issues such as travel distance and the expense of entering a team. As for the British teams, they were absent due to an ongoing dispute with FIFA – though many English and Scottish players were present, representing the USA.

4. 1976 Montreal Olympic Games

Another anti-apartheid boycott, this time led by African countries, protesting against the IOC’s refusal to ban New Zealand from competing in the games, after they had commissioned an All Blacks tour to South Africa earlier in ’76. 26 teams withdrew from the games, many of whom having already traveled to Canada.

5. 2009 Zimbabwe cricket tour of England

After months of uncertainty, the ECB cancelled Zimbabwe’s tour scheduled for the summer of 2009. The ECB followed instructions from the British government. “We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year and we will call for other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 international tournament,” said Gordon Brown. Zimbabwe pulled out of the World Twenty20 soon after.

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