The Independence Game

Sport and politics have often been an explosive mix. Cricket, football, rugby, boxing have all provoked much controversy and violence over the years. Now the football World Cup in Brazil is upon us and tear gas and unrest are already capturing the headlines.

It’s unlikely we’ll see similar scenes at the tennis championships in Wimbledon later this month. But it would be wrong to think this most genteel of events can escape political confrontation. Award winning author A.L. Kennedy re-lives for Lacuna the Men’s single final of last year between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic when the interplay between the politicians in the stand (Alex Salmond sitting behind David Cameron and lifting up the Scottish flag when Murray won) was as interesting as the game on court.  Kennedy unpicks the moment brilliantly. It had much to tell us about the debate over Scottish independence and the referendum to be held this September.

Will we see something similar at Wimbledon this year? It seems unlikely given Andy Murray’s reported disapproval of Salmond’s gesture last time around. But whether he likes it or not, there is political capital to be made out of sporting heroics. We may not witness another flag raised in reflected patriotic glory at the end of the tournament, but a repeat win for Murray would be usefully symbolic for the ‘Yes’ to independence camp. Just as a (very unlikely) victory for England in the World Cup would be a big boost to David Cameron’s re-election chances.

Whatever happens this summer, the story won’t end with the game. Politics will interfere.

Photo by gorgeoux