World Cup pull-out considered

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THE sinking of HMS Sheffield with the loss of 20 men during the Falklands War nearly led to the English and Scottish football teams being pulled out of the 1982 World Cup, old records show.

Newly-released documents from the 1980s show that in the aftermath of Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands, sports governing bodies were urged to pull out of competitions with Argentinian teams both in England and in Argentina.

But despite the directive from Sports Minister Neil Macfarlane, it remained undecided whether British nations should pull out of the 1982 Football World Cup, England’s first cup in 12 years.

On May 11 that year, Mr Macfarlane wrote to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In his letter, he said: “Up until a week or 10 days ago I have taken the line that it was up to the Football Authorities to decide whether they should participate.

“However, the loss of British life on HMS Sheffield and Sea Harriers has had a marked effect on some international footballers and some administrators.

“They feel revulsion at the prospect of playing in the same tournament as Argentina at this time. Much has appeared in the sporting pages and much more will appear the longer these hostilities continue.”

Files released to the National Archives in Kew show that cabinet ministers debated withdrawing from the World Cup, due to start on June 13 in Spain that year, but feared the decision would be used as Argentinian propaganda.

Some leading players implied they would find it ‘difficult to meet Argentina’.

But there was also concern that a pull-out from the competition would upset the host nation.