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1979: Anti-racists tackle South African rugby tourists
Seven people have been arrested for invading the pitch in the South African Barbarian's opening game against Devon.

The culprits were cautioned by police and threatened with 600 fines unless they kept the peace.

But although several thousand anti-apartheid campaigners were expected to converge on Exeter in protest against the rugby tour, the final turnout did not number more than 300.

After beating Devon in a match that suffered little disruption, the touring side then received a standing ovation from a 2000-strong crowd.

The 24-strong rugby squad has been at the centre of a sporting controversy since it was invited to tour Britain and Ireland by the rugby Home Unions Committee.

Rugby in South Africa is still being organised on an openly racial basis with only a few black stooge players decorating international touring sides
Peter Hain, Stop All Racist Tours campaign chairman

While the Barbarian 'Quaggas' are multi-racial, consisting of black, white, Asian and mixed race players, critics say such tours are just window dressing.

Peter Hain, chairing the Stop All Racist Tours Campaign, has accused the rugby authorities of trying to "hoodwink" the public.

He said: "Rugby in South Africa is still being organised on an openly racial basis with only a few black stooge players decorating international touring sides."

In the lead-up to the tour both the Sports Council and government have called for the invitation to be withdrawn.

The British Government supports the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement which discourages Commonwealth countries from any sporting links with South Africa.

It has also raised concerns that the tour will damage Zimbabwe-Rhodesia negotiations and ultimately lead to Britain's expulsion from next year's Moscow Olympics.

But a statement by the Home Unions in response to the Government's position has defended its decision to allow the tour to go ahead.

It argues there have been positive changes in South African rugby since 1977 because of the effectiveness of its policy of continuing contact.

And speaking before today's match, Devon skipper John Lockyer stressed that because the South African side was a multi-racial team he saw it is a breakthrough for South African sport.

He added: "We're being criticised for playing against the South Africans, yet nobody seems to condemn the staging of the Olympic Games in a repressive country like Russia."

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protesters make their point running across the pitch
The pitch invaders didn't stop the touring side from winning



In Context
Protests accompanied the Barbarians throughout their tour. Anti-apartheid demonstrators later scattered nails on two Welsh pitches where the Barbarians were due to play.

On 27 October more than 500 people marched through Newport appealing to spectators to boycott a match. Nine were arrested in scuffles with police.

Peter Hain estimated the demonstrations cost the public purse 270,000. He was already notorious for earlier anti-apartheid campaigning such as his disruption of the Springboks tour in 1970.

South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, commended his work in helping to bring down apartheid.

Other sports tours to and from South Africa continued throughout the apartheid years despite widespread criticism.

Peter Hain became an MP in 1991.

Stories From 3 Oct


 
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