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Football Match (Chile)

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 25 May 1977

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many protests from organisations he has received in a recent period concerning the forthcoming football match in Chile, in which a representative Scottish team may participate at Santiago Stadium.

Since December 1976, when the Scottish Football Association announced the details of the South American tour, my right hon. Friend has received representations from 29 organisations expressing concern about the proposed match in the Santiago Stadium.

May I assure my hon. Friend that my English and non-English constituents, of whom there are many, have nothing but the most warm-hearted appreciation of the historic record of the Scottish people in their dedication to the principles of democracy, human freedom and liberty? Is my hon. Friend aware that there is much dismay that the Scottish Football Association has not announced that it is to call off plans to stage a football match in this blood soaked Santiago Stadium? Will my hon. Friend press the Football Association to call off the match? Is he aware that some trade unionists, including many in the trade union that I represent, are planning to do their level best to ensure that the match does not take place and that the football team does not travel?

I am grateful for those kind comments about the Scottish people by my English colleague. But I must tell him that the Government cannot interfere in sporting affairs. I have expressed my deep concern to the SFA about the proposed match. I hope that even at this eleventh hour it will reconsider its proposal to play at the stadium.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable support in Scotland for the SFA from people who do not necessarily support the Government of Chile but who are sickened by the hypocrisy of the Labour Party and Left-wing Members who never seem to complain when Scottish teams and others play Communist dictatorships, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which in some cases are soaked in blood? Will the Minister dissociate himself from that hypocritical attitude which adopts double standards?

Not for the first time, the hon. Member talks about hypocrisy and double standards. But he knows that from time to time I have called him the ace of double standards. My constituency is next to his. When one hears him speaking of the Pakistani population in Glasgow and one knows his attitude towards race, Rhodesia and other questions, one can understand what hypocrisy means.

I have made my answer clear. I sit on a working party with the SFA. I have made it known, although I have deep respect for the officials of the SFA, that I deeply regret their misjudgment in deciding to accept an invitation to play in this stadium, where there have been some terrible incidents. I hope that there will be a change of attitude and that the match will not go ahead.

I appreciate that my hon. Friend cannot tell the Scottish Football Association what it must do. However, could he ask the association at least to take into account the feelings of the Scottish footballers? Does he agree that if they were given the facts, they might have some say in what is to happen about the proposed tour?

I must be frank and honest with my hon. Friend. I have to tell him that a poll organised by the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association resulted in 70 per cent. of the membership saying "Yes" to the game in Chile. I must be fair and honest about that. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps the players did not get all the facts of the situation. I am still hoping—and I repeat this—that the SFA will reconsider the decision to play in the Santiago Stadium.

Would it not be better if politicians stuck to politics and allowed sportsmen to get on with the game?

Sometimes when I see the hon. Member's antics I do not know whether he is a sportsman or a politician. I do not intend to change my attitude. I do not wish to repeat what I have said.

I thank my hon. Friend for the strong statement of disapproval that he has made today and previously. I also thank the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is it not the case that the SFA asked for a judgment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before going ahead and that that judgment was given against the match? Is it not shameful that the SFA should ignore the wishes of the Government and the people?

May I remind the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) that when so-called Left-wingers protest against oppression, bloodshed and tryanny they do so irrespective of the régime concerned and whether it is in the East or the West? There is blood on the ground of the stadium upon which the hon. Member is asking our young Scottish football players to perform.

My hon. Friend has played a notable part in the campaign. He is correct about the Foreign Office and its advice. I can only repeat that I hope that the SFA will still change its mind, even at this eleventh hour.

Does the Minister ever express disapproval of Scottish football teams playing behind the Iron Curtain, where there is a universal denial of human rights?

I think that the hon. Member does not follow football as much as some of us do. He may well remember the courageous stand by the Glasgow Celtic Football Club, a stand which most of us on the Government side of the House supported. I say for the benefit of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) that I have taken a stand against Russia concerning the Jews and I have expressed my disapproval in writing and in speeches. It is not a one-sided stand as far as I am concerned.