Tour de Farce: Anti-apartheid protest and South Africa’s cancelled 1970 cricket tour of England

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By Mark Rowe
The end of top-level South African sporting tours to Britain in the apartheid era was high politics. Prime Minister Harold Wilson briefed his Home Secretary Jim Callaghan before the showdown with Lord’s in May 1970; the next PM, Ted Heath, wrote shockingly harsh private words about Basil D’Oliveira, who caused the controversy in 1968.

Demos by the ‘Stop The Seventy Tour’ against the Springboks’ winter 1969 rugby tour made newspaper front pages for months; while the target was cricket – the mightiest, most conservative sport of all. The mainly student STST movement, led by the future Labour politician Peter Hain, had only zest, threat of violence, and publicity. Most of the public sided with cricket’s rulers. As barbed wire went up around grounds, cricket’s blinkered stand on principle risked ruin; financial, reputational, and physical.