Sven-Göran Eriksson once quipped that there is more politics in football than in politics. There are however, precious few examples of footballers involving themselves in politics in the same way as Imran Khan or Vitali Klitschko. George Weah stood, unsuccessfully, in the 2005 Liberian Presidential election and Roman Pavyluchenko once won a seat on a Russian Regional Council in 2008 running, inexplicably, for Vladamir Putin’s United Russia party. That is approximately the full extent of footballers officially partaking in politics. Fortunately for politics and fortunately for footballers, not many have followed a path into power. This Rubicon might be crossed immanently though, following Sol Campbell’s announcement that he aims to stand as Conservative candidate in the London Mayoral elections.
Campbell began to make a name for himself as a sage on social and economic affairs in the latter months of last year when he was vocal in his opposition to Labour’s proposed Mansion Tax on properties worth over £2 million. Of course, Sol’s £25m London residence lies spectacularly on the other side of this threshold. It was enough to make Campbell quake in his boots, or should I say tasselled loafers, at the thought that the Red Brigades might be about to storm our nation’s great capital. He even referred to Labour as ‘communist’, a nonsensical position to take by any standard. Campbell claims that he wants to enter politics to ‘give something back’. As long as that ‘giving back’ doesn’t involve him making any added contribution to the Exchequer.
Campbell takes the view that the wealth of the talented, speculative or downright lucky is hard earned and should be theirs to keep for good. Any attempts to extract a minor percentage from such small fortunes for redistributive purposes is a blow to ‘aspiration’ according to Campbell, a word uttered with such frequency since the election it is beginning to make me wretch. Fine, let him run on such a plank. The red quilt that covered London in May shows he hasn’t much chance of rallying support behind such laissez faire policies.
This is however, a football website and it is the stands Campbell has taken on footballing issues that seem to reveal some confusion within his world view. For all his faults, and there are many, it is to his credit that he has always been a vocal combatant against racism in football. Moreover, he even began to address the issue of institutional racism within the game which is far more pernicious than the vulgar chants and banana hurling from terraces which have largely been stamped out.
Sadly, or rather typically, this took the self-centred form of claiming he would have been England captain for 10 years were he not black. This claim was laughed out of the room, but he was touching upon an important issue. Why is there such a disparity between the number of black players and the number of black managers? Why so few black faces, or the faces of other minority groups, on boards or within the FA? There has to be an answer to these kinds of question.
How peculiar then, that Campbell should choose to join a party still exorcising itself from the ghost of Enoch Powell. Campbell believes that within football there was a network of pinstriped, buttoned down, elderly straight white males conspiring against him and halting his progress due to the colour of his skin. One can argue as to whether this conspiracy is real or imagined. What Campbell seems blissfully unaware of, either through lack of political literacy or sense of history, is that he is affiliating himself with exactly the sort of people that he believes conspired against him.
He hasn’t a hope in hells chance of success in the Mayoral election so perhaps all such points are moot. However, one feels the strong urge to alert Campbell to this contradiction so that he might re considerer his political alliances. At a meeting earlier this year he challenged to the FA’s technical director Dan Ashworth to explain why Gary Neville was fastracked into a coaching role with the England seniors, implying that the FA favoured him because he was white. Ashworth explained, sensibly, that the FA felt Neville was a man of great promise and that they wanted him involved. Campbell’s retort: ‘but I am Sol Campbell’. Referral to oneself in the third person does not always go hand in hand with cloudless mental health.
Sol Campbell is free to take any political position he wishes, but it is surely only a matter of time before he realises the Conservative party have done little to help people who are like him, or grow up on the same streets that he once strode. Campbell after all did attend the memorial service for Stephen Lawrence in 2013, and must be aware of the implications of the McPherson Report that followed his murder which revealed the extent of racist mal practice within the Metropolitan Police.
His venture into politics may be a fad, or an effort to satisfy his need to fulfil a higher purpose, but the confusion within his politics will not go unchallenged. I would argue the contradiction is irreconcilable.