Deputy Editor of the Eurosport website answers your questions | Sport and Politics

Hello everyone, my name is Tom Adams and I am the deputy editor of the Eurosport website and mobile app. I watch, and write about, all kinds of sports for my job, but football is my big passion and I’ve been lucky enough to attend six Champions League finals and two European Championships for work.

Is football even a sport anymore or is it just a business? 

From: Pip:Wip | Graveney School

It’s an important question – and one which we will be asking more and more in the coming years. Football at the elite level is operated as a business. Players are viewed as assets; fans are viewed as customers. Money rules.

It is not surprising that people now view football with some skepticism. But football is still a sport, even if it doesn’t always feel like that. The human element still makes football unpredictable. It is still possible for a team like Leicester City to win the Premier League.

That’s the beauty of sport and even if money has become a dominant influence on the game, it is still at heart a game. Fans still go to matches with the feeling that anything can happen. That the odds can be overcome.

In business, the financial bottom line overrules everything. Nothing is left to chance. Unpredictability is feared. Maybe football has moved that way but it is still a vehicle for amazing human stories – especially at the World Cup where, on the pitch at least, commercialism is less of a factor.

Should Russia have been allowed to host the World Cup in the first place considering their involvement in the invasion of Crimea and the Ukraine and their support of Syria’s president Assad? 

From: Pip:Wip | Graveney School

There are many good reasons to question FIFA’s decision to award Russia the World Cup. The country’s foreign policy, as you so correctly state, is problematic to say the least. You could add to that Russian state policies within their own borders. Human rights abuses are a big concern. And what about the sophisticated state-sponsored doping programme which was exposed at the Sochi Winter Olympics?

However, preventing a country hosting a World Cup based on political concerns is a dangerous road to travel down. Not least because with in excess of 200 countries making up FIFA, there is unlikely to be agreement over which countries are morally compromised or not. International relations and alliances are complicated things.

Russia is an extreme example of this. Sadly for football, there will be another in four years when Qatar hosts the 2022 tournament despite huge worries over the treatment of migrant workers in the country and discriminatory social laws.

You can certainly make a good moral argument for why these tournaments shouldn’t go to these countries, giving their leaders the legitimacy and public relations boost they crave. There are very good reasons why Russia shouldn’t have been given the tournament. And yet it is an incredibly complicated thing to police in practice.

At some point you would have to ask where to draw the line – what is considered so bad that you can’t host the World Cup? And then, by extension, what isn’t? Football isn’t capable of making these decisions by itself. So it has to be on a case-by-case basis and the outcry being so loud that it’s unsustainable to hold it in that country. 

"However, preventing a country hosting a World Cup based on political concerns is a dangerous road to travel down."

Tom Adams, Eurosport

Why are there such Harsh punishments just for showing your opinion on something that has NOTHING to do with the world cup?(like wearing a yellow ribbon) 

From: The darkshadow | Ben Jonson Primary School

I presume the yellow ribbon is a reference to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and the punishment he received from the Football Association last season when he was fined £20,000 for displaying the offending item in a Premier League match.

FIFA also has a ban on political symbols which applies during the World Cup. In fact, two Switzerland players have just been fined for exactly that after they marked goals against Serbia by using their hands to make the shape of an eagle – the national symbol of Albania – in a reference to the disputed territory of Kosovo. It was pretty complicated!

You can certainly see this as a restriction of freedom of speech. Why shouldn’t someone make a symbol which means something to them? But in practice freedom of speech has to be balanced against the potential consequences arising from it. What could seem innocent to one group of people might be seen as grossly offensive by others.

FIFA has taken the decision to ban all political symbols. Once football starts to decide what is and isn’t politically acceptable, it steps into dangerous ground and it is far safer to ban them all. Let’s take the example of Guardiola’s yellow ribbon again. It showed solidarity with political prisoners in the fight for Catalan independence. You might think that is a noble cause and many people would agree with you. But many Spaniards might find the concept grossly offensive. FIFA has to take a stance against all political symbols – it’s the only practical way to operate.

Do you think sometimes managers can be bias and give players different punishment for breaking the rules and making a political statement because of their own or the general public’s political views? 

From: Blueleopard | Faringdon Community College

I’m struggling to think of a good example in response to this question – which I think is revealing in itself. Footballers are notoriously reluctant to discuss politics or express political views for fear of causing controversy, or angering some of their fans. Either that or they have no interest in politics, which is fine.

Things are quite different in America where the NBA and particularly the NFL have seen numerous players protest against Trump or racial inequality – particularly the treatment by police of the black communities across America. That has brought some players into conflict with club owners – though usually the managers, or coaches in this case, are keen to protect the important relationships they have with their players.

One example of a footballer who has expressed political views is Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. He supported the Catalan independence referendum (although he never confirmed he wanted independence, just the right for Catalans to vote). He was abused by many Spain fans but was never punished by his manager.

So I don’t think the scenario you outlined really happens in practice. Certainly, if a manager is punishing players for that reason, they are unlikely to admit to it!

12 Comments

  1. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    Do you think football can be dangerous for the players? Especially because it is being held in Russia and the games that have happened in the past?

  2. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    Do you think that footballers are influenced by politics to have a negative opinion on another team because of their country’s reputation when they are playing a match? For example: Russia with their bad reputation for human rights

  3. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    Do you think that footballers are influenced by politics to have a negative opinion on another team because of their country’s reputation when they are playing a match? For example: Russia with their bad reputation for human rights

    -Tigerteam

  4. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    Why was Pep Guardiola punished so severely for wearing a yellow ribbon even when it probably meant nothing to his team? Even though my teacher (and several pupils) say that £20,000 wasn’t really much to him, I still think it is pretty unfair.
    ApplesAndPears10

  5. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Should Sports and Politics ACTUALLY mix I don’t think it is a really good idea considering they are kind of really different things if you compare them together? – X_KawaiiRaven_X

  6. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why isn’t there a world cup for Women’s football? Do you think this is fair since they are separated?

    -iiMythicalRavenX

  7. Boutcher Primary School Boutcher Primary School

    Why do people get fined for so much when it is a little thing?

    jemimayam

  8. Boutcher Primary School Boutcher Primary School

    Should you get fined or should you get fired?
    Wolf

  9. Boutcher Primary School Boutcher Primary School

    there is no point for fining someone for a ribbon!
    Catcircle787

  10. Boutcher Primary School Boutcher Primary School

    If Fifa are wrong after fining someone would they give them their money back?
    Wolf

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