THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

11 February ~ Arsenal target Marouane Chamakh, currently at Bordeaux, will be standing for the centrist MoDem party in French regional elections. In WSC 63 (May 1992) Mitchell Sandler traced the history of footballers' involvement in politics

The surprise about Vic Halom's efforts to convert Sunderland to the Liberal Democrat cause is not his performance but that he stood for parliament in the first place. Footballers tend to be, as Dennis Skinner might say, of working class stock, which is why the Football League could get away with the maximum wage rule for so long (even after its abolition it was still regarded by many professionals as a right and proper limit for working class lads).

Political agitation has never really been a cause close to the hearts of professional footballers and it is no surprise that the few who have made an impact on the political scene are men who might have been more at ease in another sport.

Athletics seems a particularly attractive sport for would-be legislators, Sebastian Coe being the latest manifestation of a tradition which encompasses such luminaries as Menzies Campbell, Christopher Chataway and Jeffrey Archer. England cricket supremo Ted Dexter delayed joining the 1964 England tour in order to appear in his own pantomime opposite Jim Callaghan. Callaghan increased his majority by over 800% and was promptly made Chancellor of the Exchequer. Essex Conservatives presumably found the last good British tennis player, Buster Mottram, too right-wing for their tastes and decided not to adopt him. WSC readers will not need reminding of rowing's minuscule contribution to British thought.

The four England internationals who went on to be elected to Parliament all came from a background a world away from the modern game. All played for Old Etonians and Oxford or Cambridge University and all had an international career that Danny Wallace may find strangely familiar. John Friedrich Rawlinson (hushed voice-over-Conservative, Cambridge University 1906-26) was a goalkeeper who appeared in three consecutive FA Cup finals and was picked for the 13-0 rout of Ireland in 1882. Despite not really having the opportunity to make a mistake, he was never packed again. William Kenyon-Slaney (Conservative, Newport 1866-1908) made his debut against Scotland in 1873, scoring twice in a 4-2 victory, and never pulled on the white shirt again.

General William Bromley-Davenport (Conservative, Macclesfield 1886-1906) did somewhat better than his colleagues in that after making his debut in a 1-0 defeat in 1884 he, along with nine others, was – in a tradition still practised today of not changing a losing team – picked for the match at Wrexham two days later. On this occasion he scored twice in a 4-0 victory and it was only then that he found his place on the international scrapheap. Finally there is the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton (Liberal Unionist, Warwick and Leamington, 1895-1906; Hanover Square - St Georges 1906-13) who actually had a successful political career and served a secretary of State for the Colonies. He scored England's only goal in the 3-1 home defeat by Scotland in 1877 (in a team which, according to my source books, did not include a goalkeeper) and, needless to say, was never picked again.

As far as I know, since Rawlinson's death, the only MP who has been paid to run up and down a football pitch is Dennis Howell, ex-referee and Minister for Sport, drought and floods. Kate Hoey was the physiotherapist at Highbury and presumably is still employed to help David Seaman identify his defenders. There have also been contributors such as David Evans and Jack Dunnett, along with Robert Maxwell who was the victim of a far-sighted decision by a group of Oxford United supporters living in Buckingham who could see the who could see the merit of deposing their MP in 1970. Unfortunately they failed to see beyond April 1986.

In addition, two ex-footballers have briefly been considered as parliamentary candidates. Brian Clough ultimately turned down the opportunity to stand for Labour in Manchester and Loughborough while, unfortunately for the Greens, David Icke did briefly accept the nomination for the Isle of Wight, bringing more media attention than he ever did for Hereford or Coventry.

Who will be the next footballer to go into politics? Don't count on it, but the rumours that Gary Lineker will return to lead the Revolutionary Communist Party next time out are getting stronger every day. 

Comments (1)
Comment by Chirpy 2010-02-12 10:24:20

Billy McNeil and Eric Caldow both stood for the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party in the 2003 Scottish Elections. The party had an MSP elected for one term, but neither of the old firm legends made it.

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