Getting the politics into sport

‘Death to Golf… Save the Spearmint Rhino’?

Getting politics into sport seems inevitable
Credit: Jim Gade / Pixabay

We have all heard it said innumerable times – ‘keep politics out of sport’. It’s an old favourite, albeit a slogan that seems more futile with every passing year. The World Cup is about football but FIFA is about politics, which is the reason the next World Cup is going to be in Qatar. The Olympic Games are about sport but the IOC is as much of a political entity as the White House, where the present incumbent seems more bothered about keeping false scorecards than keeping safe scared Kurds.

You will probably have noticed that a General Election is approaching. And perhaps we golfers should be getting worried. It was reported last week that Sophie Wilson, the Labour candidate and likely winner in the Rother Valley constituency in South Yorkshire, ‘liked’ a tweet which called for golf courses to be “seized for public housing”. (I was talking about this very idea to a friend in the pub the other week and we agreed it was only a matter of time before it came up; it seems the time has arrived.)

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However, Ms Wilson has lately garnered rather more notoriety for her support of a licence renewal for a lap-dancing club despite the vehement protestations of campaigners against the sexual exploitation of women. One wonders if that forms the gist of her election leaflets – ‘Death to Golf… Save the Spearmint Rhino’?

Golf in this country has not latterly had a high profile in terms of public figures. Prince Andrew has been captain of the R&A (or at least there are photographs suggesting he has) but perhaps best to gloss over that. Willie Whitelaw, the late former Conservative home secretary, was an avid golfer and aeons ago I played a round with him at his home club, Penrith in the Lake District. He beat me by 2&1. Roy Hattersley, at the time a recent deputy leader of the Labour Party, didn’t play golf but he was famously fond of his food so for a different magazine story I invited him to the Berkshire to write about their celebrated roast lunch. He beat me by three Yorkshire puddings to two. By bizarre coincidence, he and Sophie Wilson both hail from Sheffield.

The pro-Brexit MP, Liam Fox, was appointed international trade secretary by Theresa May but has been missing in inaction since Boris Johnson succeeded her as prime minister. And no wonder. In September 2016, Fox made a speech saying that “companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming or because [their executives] can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon”. Given that Donald Trump would probably regard restricting midweek golf to just one afternoon as a dereliction of duty, I think we can see why Johnson would want to keep Fox well away from the hen house – sorry, White House – at risk that he might get round to discussing the pluses of chlorinated chickens.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, there are two golf courses in Qatar. My bet is that they will be getting a lot of play during the World Cup – a lot of it by politicians discussing sport.

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog plus you can read more by him on golf at

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