Naive to think that sport and politics won't be a toxic mix
As global sporting tournaments go, it's spectacularly badly timed.
The 2018 football World Cup finals were controversially awarded to Russia eight years ago, at England’s expense.
During Euro 2016 there were sickening scenes when Russian followers attacked English fans in France.
That wasn’t great, but it’s completely overshadowed now amid ever-growing tensions between Britain and Russia that have nosedived to levels not seen since the Cold War after the recent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.
That event, which garnered worldwide headlines and a raft of allegations, was followed by the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK and other embassies around the world, with British diplomats kicked out from Moscow in tit-for-tat measures.
Now the main question is this – will the politics and the threat of hooliganism completely overshadow the football?
With Gareth Southgate’s new look, fairly young squad unlikely to seriously challenge for the cup, that is looking increasingly likely.
The Salisbury poisoning story is not going to go away anytime soon, and unsurprisingly some England supporters are concerned about what impact that could have on them while they try and enjoy the tournament.
It is a cliche to say sport and politics should not mix, but they have before at global events.
The USA were one of 65 nations to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980, over the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan the year before.
In response, the Soviets did not compete in the Los Angeles Olympics four years later.
Thankfully, we’re not at that stage yet. But it’s naive in the extreme to believe the on-field action will claim all the front page headlines this summer.