Belfast Telegraph

Why some of our leading sports personalities are scoring an own goal when it comes to backing election hopefuls

Editor's Viewpoint

The intervention of well-known local sports people who lend their personal endorsements to political figures is open to question.

The latest to become involved is Roy McGivern, chairman of Linfield, who is supporting the DUP's Emma Little Pengelly in her election bid in South Belfast.

Gerard Lawlor, chairman of Cliftonville football club, has endorsed John Finucane of Sinn Fein, and David Jeffrey from the Ballymena Club is backing the UUP's Tom Elliott.

All of this follows the initial endorsement of Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard in South Down by the Fermanagh GAA manager Pete McGrath.

The sports figures say they are giving their endorsements personally, but people inside and outside football will inevitably make the connection between sport and politics.

These high-profile names are controversially dragging their clubs into the political arena.

Many observers will wonder if this is a wise or advisable course of action in a country like Northern Ireland where, sadly, elections are still largely fought on sectarian grounds.

Surely it would be better if these leaders were to leave their politics outside their club gates?

Many people attend fixtures as a relief from the grim reality of life here.

The IFA has been trying , rightly, to widen the appeal of the currently highly-successful Northern Ireland team, and to bring in support from mixed backgrounds, in its "Football for All" programme.

The GAA has also been involved in trying to promote outreach, and it cannot be helpful to the promoters of these sports that some of their leading people are bringing sport into politics.

This is not a forward-looking approach, or the kind of branding that is trying to promote sport as a means of building bridges.

Those people who have already endorsed political figures have made a poor choice. Any others thinking of doing so should think again in the interests of sport all round.

Belfast Telegraph


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