From Leo McKinstry’s excellent biography of Geoff Boycott, Boycs:
Like most top sportsmen, who live by competition and individualism, Boycott’s political views are firmly on the right. Indeed, he could almost be described as the identikit Thatcherite, the miner’s son who built his own fortune through diligence and hard-nosed professionalism. However, though he might be inclined towards Conservatism, he has never been involved in Tory politics. In fact, his only foray into political activism was when he lent his support to Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, explaining that his Euro-scepticism was motivated by his patriotism. But Boycott was quick to turn down any idea that he wanted formally to enter politics. ‘I am not a political animal and as someone who prefers to speak his mind I might find it impossible to follow a specific line of policy in Parliament.’
For someone who describes himself as not a political animal, that shows a sharp awareness of the reality of politics that one might wish onto the rest of the non-political population. The idea that political parties exist to achieve compromise between large numbers of people each possessing their own individual and conflicting outlooks is lost these days on a lot of people who are now more familiar with the model of the one-issue pressure group and expect Labour and the Tories to conform to it.
Whether “most sportsmen” tend to the right is open to enormous question. Hunter Davies canvassed the political views of two separate generations of Tottenham Hotspur players (in the early ’70s and mid ’80s) and found a mix of views no different from what you’d expect from any randomly selected group of British citizens. Only the fervent left-winger Steve Perryman stood out in any way. More recently, Keegan came out for Thatcher, Ferguson for Labour and Blair.
One might as well assume that because of Sir Patrick Moore, astronomers are the territory of UKIP.
Nevertheless, the essential question – is there a trend to the politics of people in sport – is a tempting one. There are similar questions being asked and answered – are sportsmen prone to domestic violence? or drug abuse? do they get “addicted” to the “high” of sport and can’t come down when they retire?
Perhaps someone with more statistical training than I enjoy might have something to say about the quality of sample that a group of sportsmen represents. Matthew, Daniel? Because I have a hunch about it that I can’t substantiate. What I believe, but can’t prove, is that the nature of the sample in these cases is restricting the outcome of the study. There are not so many “top” sportsmen as to create a useful mean and average, nor are comparative studies into e.g. milkmen and accounting executives and.. lumberjacks, for instance, being made. There is an undercurrent of enthusiasm for psychological flaws in sportsmen that’s absent for any other group other than soldiers and politicians: no one’s going to undertake psychological studies of sportsmen in the hope that the answer will be “no”.