Sport Comment: Stripping Russia of World Cup is just not practical

John Inverdale
SPORT always has been and remains a political football. I have spent much of the past weekend at the Rugby 7s at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

I have been trying to explain to people who asked why Fiji were not competing as a team when some of their individual athletes were.

Fiji were expelled from the Commonwealth after the military junta refused to hold free elections but then re-admitted.

The more I tried to explain, the more nonsensical it got.

The suggestion by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg that Russia should be stripped of the World Cup in 2018 is inherently laudable.

However, at the same time, it is equally impractical and ridiculous.

One-off sporting boycotts, depending on what they are, achieve nothing.

They merely deprive individuals of the right to compete or the public the chance to see the best in action.

The only example of sport being used as a political tool effectively was the concerted isolation of South Africa in the apartheid era.

The mass boycott by African nations of the last Scottish Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 was just part of a continuing campaign across 20 years to change the regime.

Think America's boycott of the Moscow Olympics and Russia’s tit-for-tat response in Los Angeles.

This was simply pointless political posturing.

And in this instance, why single out Russia for one atrocity it is apparently implicated in?

Especially, when there are so many other countries which could face similar global condemnation.

If the United Nations decided that Russia was a pariah state and voted in favour of major international sanctions, then you're talking.

No Grand Prix. No World Cup. No competition in gymnastics or any other sports Russia excels in.

That would be sporting isolation on a grand scale, which after a decade or so might start to seep into the Russian consciousness and effect change from within.

But you know and I know that’s not going to happen.

There is too much money and too many vested interests whether within Fifa or Formula One and beyond.

The logical extension of Nick Clegg’s fantasy football world, where we only play in and against countries we approve of, is that sometimes we'd be left playing with ourselves.