The age-old debate of should politics and sport mix is a highly contested one on both sides of the argument. There are the sternest believers that they should never mix and there are those that see each circumstance individually.
There is no doubt that politics can have a negative influence on sport. Only a few months ago, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, claimed that England could boycott the World Cup in Russia if there was to be damning evidence found against Russia over the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury. Whilst it is highly unlikely to happen due to the national and international uproar that it would cause, the mere suggestion of it outraged many around the country. Why should this buffoon be taking away our source of enjoyment?
Over the years there have been several political boycotts of the sporting events; most notably the Olympics, few of which have actually led to any improvement in the political situation between the relevant countries. Two of the most high profile Olympic boycotts are Moscow 1980 and L.A. 1984. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the American government put large amounts of pressure on the US Olympic Team do withdraw from the Moscow games. The pressure paid and the Americans stayed at home despite the Olympic charter stating to ‘resist all pressures of any kind whatsoever’. Four years later, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the USA’s games. This was largely seen as being an act of revenge, although the official statement was ‘for securities’.
These events will have had the modern Olympics founder, Baron de Coubertin, turning in his grave. He founded the Olympics on the values of international friendship and respect. Boycotts undeniably leave the Olympics in a worse state and mean that millions around the world can’t enjoy the quadrennial event. In my opinion, this is criminal. We haven’t seen political intervention on the same level in football, but it’s frightening to think that our sport could be meddled with by people in palaces.
Sport should be a release from the daily stresses of life. For this to be taken away by some high ranking government official on the other side of the world, as an act of ‘revenge’ or ‘power’ is unfair on the majority of society.
This emancipation from daily concerns is where football links in. During the industrial revolution, men started getting more time off work, therefore allowing them to go and watch their local team play. The Liverpool song ‘Every other Saturday’ is directly centred around the idea of the working class having a half day off and going to watch their team play.
In the eyes of many, the concept of politics in football brings to an end the idea of a relief.
Since the days of mob football, football has traditionally been a working-class game. The popularity of the sport has led to the whole of society playing the beautiful game. It’s no longer only the working class that play. It is everyone. Just as everybody plays the game, everybody also supports a team.
From my point of view, you don’t pick a football team. The team picks you. Whether it is passed down by family, your local team or you just having taken a liking to them as a young child, it is difficult for me to understand the concept of ‘picking’ a team. Having said this, there is a definite correlation between supporters of certain teams and their political views. Can a person pick their football team based on political or religious views? It certainly happens in Scotland. Due to the globalisation of football, this is slowly being lost. However, it can still be found in places which have deeply rooted attitudes.
Liverpool is a prime example of a team which is very much politically one-sided. The last 150 years have shaped Merseyside into the way it is seen today. It is very accepting and multicultural. The oldest Chinese community in Europe inhabits Liverpool, so this isn’t a new thing. The influx of immigrants is down to the booming shipping industry of old which brought sailors from far and wide. The port also meant that two million Irish sailed into the city, over the course of a decade, during the Great Famine. The city also had a strong work ethic with people knowing they needed to work to survive.
As the traditional industries of Liverpool dried up in the 20th century, so did the money. Liverpool was now a city in decline and the government weren’t going to help. The Conservative government once were famously quoted as saying they suggested putting Liverpool into ‘managed decline’. Citizens became more and more outraged by the social hierarchy that they could see before their eyes.
Other factors such as the Hillsborough disaster have massively contributed to the ill feeling towards the Tory government. Margaret Thatcher didn’t care about the disaster. Under her government, massive cover-ups were going on. There was corruption and an urge to [put the blame on the working class. Margaret Thatcher was universally hated on Merseyside for her treatment of innocent, hard-working people.
The S*n newspaper is also a supporter of the Tories and we know the damage that they have caused the city. The boycott of the S*n means that it is harder for Scousers to be exposed to Tory propaganda in the media.
These amongst many other circumstances have led to a labour dominated city. With Liverpool FC being the most supported club on Merseyside, it means that the vast majority of supporters are left wing. Whilst most acknowledge that Labour are far from perfect, the hurt that the Tories have brought to Merseyside and the North West means that they will probably never gain a foothold on Merseyside again. A quick glance at the 2017 general election results shows that Labour have almost every seat in Liverpool and the surrounding areas.
Aside from the contempt towards the Conservative party, there are other reasons as to why a Jeremy Corbyn banner has been displayed on the Kop. Labour’s values are similar to that of Liverpool’s. We stand for acceptance, hard work, improved social mobility, and also being down to earth with the working class. Bill Shankly had a massive influence on the relationship between Labour and Liverpool. Shankly’s idea of socialism rubbed off on the club, creating a unique bond between players and supporters. Jurgen Klopp is currently enhancing the club’s traditional socialistic views. He doesn’t shy away from talking about the stupidity of Brexit. This pleases fans because they feel like they have a voice. Liverpool voted against Brexit and now their manager agrees with them and is speaking out about the issue. Shankly thought that the players should be an embodiment of the fans, on the pitch. Jurgen Klopp’s teams play with similar desire and passion to that of the fans. When an individual doesn’t give their all, they are shown the door immediately.
For all the above reasons Liverpool appears to be linked to Labour. It’s not necessarily because of the Labour party itself. It’s more because of the city’s strong opposition to the right wing.
There are times in sport where outside factors can cause trouble. The Old Firm division of Glasgow is sometimes dangerous. This is a prime example of when political views go too far and can manifest themselves in the nation’s favourite pastime.
Why can’t socialism still exist in football? It is for the greater good of the people and is a refreshing change to the prima donnas that often infest are game in the 21st century.
Sport and politics is a debate which won’t go away, but it’s impossible to deny that Liverpool FC and its supporters remain uninfluenced by the society around them.