The Politics of South African Cricket

The Politics of South African Cricket

The Politics of South African Cricket

The Politics of South African Cricket


In this text, Jon Gemmell analyses the relationship between sport and politics through an historical analysis of South African cricket. He argues convincingly that cricket assisted the reform process by undermining the legitimacy of the apartheid regime.


The emphasis on perspective was fundamental to an understanding of 'politics' and its relationship to the wider organism we call 'society'. 'Sport', surely, should not suffer from the same difficulties of definition and viewpoint that politics does. Sport is a part of leisure, a measurement of time free from the mundane routine of work and other obligations. It is an activity that usually, though not always, involves competition and the exercise of brain, muscle, or both. Sport has been a feature of human existence for as long as that history has been recorded. Is it not, therefore, a pursuit independent and remote from the rigours of political nature, an area which the liberal would consider inappropriate for analysis by the political scientist? If we accept sport in its innocence as an independent variable offering simple enjoyment to the world's population then, yes, scrutiny would be of little benefit to the student of politics. However, we know that this is a fallacy: sport is a reflection of the society in which it is practised. Could we examine sport in the Soviet Union or the United States, for example, without recourse to the social and economic environment? Attitudes to participation, competition and even which sports are played, are determined-in the main-by factors outside of sport itself. Contemporary sport, for example, has evolved in an age of urbanisation, industrialisation and technological advance, and it would be more than fair to outline the effect these social changes have had on sport.

The basis of this chapter is to examine what sport represents beyond its mere activity, the reasons that governments become involved in sport, the benefits that this association brings, how it has been shaped by social and economic phenomena, and the functions which it serves for that environment. Primarily, this chapter is an attempt to assess sport's relationship with politics.

Problems with defining sport

We have considered in the opening sentences that a conceptualisation of sport is not an easy one. Most definitions would agree that sport is a physical activity which involves the use of both exertion and skill. Even this basic

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