Yes – NO: Should we boycott the Russia World Cup?

YES – James Pascoe

Well, we’ve tried everything else. I initially disliked the idea of boycotting in principle as much as the next fellow, but what choice do we have left?

We are going backwards in the fight against intolerance, not only in sport, but arguably in other areas of society – particularly in Russia.

New anti-gay laws are a throwback to the bad old days. And how can we possibly stage the most popular sporting event in the world in a country that consistently causes great upset to ethnic minority players during football matches, most recently Yaya Toure in a CSKA Moscow match against Manchester City.

Of course, it is important not to make Russia a scapegoat – racial intolerance remains prevalent across other European nations. It would be both hypocritical and incorrect to suggest that we are rid of the scourge of racism in British sport.

But somewhere along the line, we have to make these offenders get the message. Fining culprit clubs have not proved an effective deterrent. Sport’s governing bodies rarely follow through on their threats to confine matches to being played behind closed doors.

And when clubs flat out deny the occurrence of racist chanting, like CSKA did last week, then we get an idea of how serious the problems are.

Is boycotting the World Cup the only solution? By no means. But is it time to start considering this threat as a possible course of action? Absolutely.

No – James Scott

Throughout sporting history boycotts have always been a sure fire failure. The Olympic boycott of 1980 was a complete failure that simply made the US look reactionary and did nothing to change Soviet policy in Afghanistan. In fact it probably hardened their position, and ultimately the only people who lost out were the athletes and the fans.

We have to accept that there are some countries that do not hold the same liberal world outlook that we do. It shouldn’t be up to us to impose our subjective world views on countries that have very different political, social and cultural stages of development, particularly when our houses are by no-means squeaky clean. Even if we boycott the Winter Olympics and World Cup we would be in the minority, and any effect would be largely forgotten once the sporting action is underway.

In many ways, such sporting events are huge opportunities to open host countries up to different peoples, cultures and ideas that these sporting events bring.

The opening up of host countries to the global village may in fact help them to liberalise and make social reforms, as no one wants to be seen as the host of a terrible World Cup or Olympics rife with homophobia and racism, thus embarassing their country on the world stage.

This in itself is a great incentive to make changes. When politics and sport collide there is only one winner, it’s the thing people actually want to watch, please keep politics out of sport.