National Archives: Move to pull British teams out of 1982 World Cup

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The government considered pulling Scotland, England and Northern Ireland out of the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain as war broke out with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

In the aftermath of the invasion, sports governing bodies were urged to pull out of competitions featuring Argentine teams. Despite the directive from sports minister Neil Macfarlane, World Cup participation went ahead.

Newly released files show ministers debated withdrawal but feared the decision would be used as Argentinian propaganda.

In April 1982, Mr Macfarlane wrote to the Sports Council, saying: “I urge no sporting contact with Argentina at representative, club or individual level on British soil. This policy applies equally to all fixtures in Argentina.”

Some players were said to have implied they would find it “difficult to meet Argentina on a sports field” if fighting was continuing. There were fears Scotland could meet Argentina in the second round, but the Scots didn’t get that far.