Playing Politics: Politics in Sport

Back in June I was delighted to take part in Playing Politics: Politics in Sport festival at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. 

Having not visited the Museum before, I found it a really inspiring place. Documenting the history of working people in Britain, it was so refreshing to wander through the exhibits, seeing the achievements of real, working people celebrated. In an era where the political and economic elite persist in demonizing the working class, using the age-old (but finely-tuned) techniques of divide and rule to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers; the unemployed and the working poor; economic migrants and more established communities it was incredible to see the progress that can be made if we put aside the crap the elite feed us and work together. Of course, hysterical stories about migrants and refugees, stealing ‘our’ jobs and bringing the country to its knees is just Daily Mail hyperbole designed to protect those really looting the nation for all it is worth – big business and the bankers. We live in a time where wages are suppressed to record lows, yet corporate profits and shareholders dividends continue to grow. They really don’t want us to work that out. Owen Jones pretty much nails it here.

The trade union banners were a particular highlight. I especially loved the Country Standard banner, embroidered with the legend: ‘Peace and Socialism in the Countryside’ – stick that in your pipe and smoke it Countryside Alliance!

After an enjoyable wander around the museum, it was time to attend the talks. I was on near the end, which gave me plenty of time to feel nervous, but also to listen to some other really interesting presentations. I enjoyed learning about the ‘Tennis Radicals’ Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King along with the story of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC – a factory team – who back in1921 played to over 900,000 fans. Both papers were presented eloquently by Peter Marsden.

Of obvious interest to me was Michael Lavalette’s presentation on the Green Brigade, there being so many close links between the Green Brigade and Ultra Sankt Pauli. We also managed a nice book swap, which saw me bag a copy of the excellent Capitalism and Sport.

My talk went ok, with my overview of the fan scene at St. Pauli turning into its usual recruitment drive, trying to persuade people to visit the Millerntor!

It was a pleasure to discuss sport and politics with so many distinguished speakers and a well-informed audience. It was even nicer to discover that a place like the People’s History Museum exists. It’s about time our story was told and celebrated. People not profit.