It goes without saying that a ‘yes’ vote on Thursday would result in changes of huge economic, legal and social importance for the UK. Amongst the panic surrounding Westminster and Ed Miliband being heckled in Edinburgh, there are a number of important questions that remain to be answered around issues of currency, jobs, EU membership and Scottish citizenship, not to mention the ramifications for businesses across the UK. Despite the vote being just 24 hours away, every question is still very much a hypothetical one, but, unless I’m a victim of SNP propaganda myself, I’m certain the result will come down to as little as one per cent either way.
Betting on events outside of sport is not something I have ever done, and at first I thought it strange that leading bookies were displaying odds for a yes / no vote alongside the Champions League first goal scorers. But the more I thought about it the more the concept grew on me; sport really is a major part of our society and many of society’s principles are displayed within it. While politicians may have as little desire to consider the potential consequences for sport as I have to see Salmond or Cameron in tennis shorts, that’s not to say we should discount it all together.
As disappointing as the promised “Olympic Legacy” has been since London 2012, I would back David Cameron, as a sports fan, to give some thought to the complications surrounding UK sport should we wake up to an independent Scotland on Friday.
Scottish independence could have some serious sporting implications. Let’s begin with the obvious example – football in Scotland, proudly hosting its own independent leagues boasting teams such as Celtic and Rangers. Initial suggestions some time ago that the best teams from the Scottish Premiership could join the English Premier League were quickly dismissed, with the English and Scottish FA seemingly happy to keep the nations separate in this regard. Football fans can relax as it’s safe to assume that the sport wouldn’t be affected either way, ruling it irrelevant for this particular discussion. But this is just the start of the debate.
Further along the spectrum is rugby; now this could be subject to some complications. Anyone who has attended a Calcutta Cup game (England v Scotland) will know that the respective fans use this as an excuse to get all proud and patriotic; it can even divide the closest of families. It gives both nations a real sense of identity. This wouldn’t change, in fact the rivalry would intensify, but what about the British and Irish Lions? Would Scottish players no longer play a part or would the name have to be rebranded? David Cameron has suggested the former, while those within the game think a name change to ‘The Lions’ would be the probable outcome. Something to consider.
Next on the list is Britain’s Marmite, Andy Murray. He’s always been Scottish when he loses and British when he wins, but the 2013 Wimbledon champion may be ours no longer should Scotland vote yes tomorrow, leaving us wondering where our next Olympic gold medallist or Wimbledon champion will come from; does Greg Rusedski’s son play tennis? It’s a good thing Murray won it when he did because if he repeats his performance in 2016 he may not be welcomed to the podium by the British National Anthem nor wrap the Union Jack around his shoulders. Murray openly criticised Alex Salmond for his St Andrews cross stunt in the Wimbledon final and unionists have always enjoyed hearing his continued insistence that he competes for Great Britain in every match he plays, but soon he may not have a choice. Murray’s case is a great example of the potential implications for UK sport at the hands of the yes / no vote.
Perhaps the greatest thing about British sport is how it allows us to share our vast array of talent. We are blessed with some of the finest athletes the world, as was evident by our medal haul at London 2012. We may say (quietly to ourselves, in true English fashion), ‘what would Scottish athletes achieve without us?’ The answer is 55 Scottish athletes (10 per cent) were part of Team GB at London 2012, securing 15 of our 65 medals. So perhaps we should be asking the opposite. Chris Hoy would no longer be ‘ours’; how does that sit with your Bran Flakes?
There would be all sorts of hoops for Scotland to jump through to gain recognition from the International Olympic Committee before they are able to compete in an Olympic games independently, which are too long-winded to go into detail here, but I presume athletes would have a choice on who to compete for. Who knows?
Tomorrow’s referendum could mean momentous changes for the UK as we know it. I just hope sport is given the recognition it deserves.