From the June 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard
Ideally, sporting activities are organized to entertain the public and indeed, in which the public participate. But in a profit-driven society, sports becomes an industry in which sportsmen, sportswomen and spectators are tools used by wealthy individuals and groups to make profits. Whereas competitors are hired and even drugged to squeeze out every exploitable energy and talent from them (of course it is officially called “performance enhancing”) the public are allowed to watch games only if they can pay. Many people don't realize this business aspect of sports or they simply overlook it. But this year's Cricket World Cup held in Africa embarrassingly betrayed the high profit considerations in sports.
The fixtures for the tournament were scheduled as far back as October 2001. England was billed to play against Zimbabwe in Harare on 13th February 2003. Now everyone knows that the local, mainly black, capitalists in Zimbabwe are locked in battle with the predominantly white capitalist farmers over land. The Zimbabwean and British governments are deeply involved in this intra-capitalist struggle on the side of the mainly black and predominantly white respectively.
The 13 February match in Harare therefore provided a 'godsent' weapon that the white commercial farmers, through the British government, decided to use against their adversary. So rising up to their role as a paid agent of people in big business, the government of U.K., started the machinations. The culture secretary Tessa Jowell and other Ministers in London urged the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to boycott the match in protest against Mugabe's evil regime.
However the British government could not authoritatively order the ECB not to honour the match because the ECB is also a capitalist organization thirsty for profits. Thus the issue disgracefully degenerated into another battle between two of the British government's masters, the Zimbabwean commercial farmers and the capitalists in the cricket business.
The ECB was ferociously determined to go ahead with the match in view of the millions of pounds they would lose in fines and profits. They defended their intention to play with a capitalistically logical argument that there were no trade and sports sanctions against Zimbabwe and that if over 300 British companies were trading in Zimbabwe, the why couldn't the ECB also pursue its profit-oriented interests there?
It is not our concern which of the capitalists won the day. What concerns us as an exploited class of players and spectators is whether our miserable living conditions would change whether the match was played or not. Of course we would still remain a plundered class. Boycotts, sanctions, strikes, etc. present no solutions to the serious problems of war, famine and disease. Sometimes they are even counter-productive, as is is currently the case in Zimbabwe. Mugabe and his colleagues in the privileged class are not in any meaningful way affected by the sanctions. It is rather the poor who feel the pinch. Is it not a mockery that even though Mugabe is under a travel ban, French capitalists through the French government managed to get him to Paris in February for the Franco-African Summit where business and profits were discussed?
A genuine way to liberate the world from all its problems is to get it off this profit-oriented view of affairs. It is only then that cricket players and fans can cease to be used as a source of money for a tiny majority, and the sport returned to the domain of leisure activity in which ones enjoyment of sport, whether as a participant or spectator, is not dictated by the amount of money in their pockets.