MercoPress, 28 November 2017

Interview where I discuss the first stages of my work on the Falkland Islands in international sporting competition.


Report to the Shackleton Scholarship Fund: The Falkland Islands in the Island Games, 1993-present

Matthew L McDowell BA PhD


The Falkland Islands have regularly participated in the biennial Island Games sporting tournament since 1993. The initial scope of my funding was to examine Falkland Islands participants’ memories of the events themselves and their preparation towards them, along with their motivations for doing so. I was also interested in exploring the history of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA), its structure and functions, and its ambitions – combined with the politics of participating as a separate “nation”. This research required travel to the Falkland Islands, hence why I requested the funding.

However, whilst in Stanley, I also examined the Falkland Islands’ participation in the Commonwealth Games (every four years), as well as elements of the Falklands’ broader sporting history. This was both to contextualise the material on the Island Games, and to get a better understanding of the Falklands’ sporting culture within the broader context of the former British Empire and Commonwealth (which I have performed research on with regard to elsewhere, and continue to have research interests in).


Journey to the Falkland Islands

Inbound (Wednesday, 29 November 2017 – Saturday, 2 December 2017)

Edinburgh – London Heathrow (British Airways), London Heathrow – Sao Paolo Guarulhos (LATAM Brasil), Sao Paolo Guarulhos – Santiago Arturo Merino Benitez (LATAM Brasil), two nights in Santiago, Santiago Arturo Merino Benitez – RAF Mount Pleasant via Punta Arenas (LATAM Chile).

Time in the Falkland Islands

Saturday, 2 December 2017 – Saturday, 16 December 2017.

Outbound (Saturday, 16 December 2017 – Monday, 18 December 2017)

RAF Mount Pleasant – Santiago Arturo Merino Benitez via Rio Gallegos and Punta Arenas (LATAM Chile), one night in Santiago, Santiago Arturo Merino Benitez – Sao Paolo Guarulhos (LATAM Brasil), Sao Paolo Guarulhos – London Heathrow (LATAM Brasil), London Heathrow – Edinburgh (British Airways).



Initial digital research – Summer 2017

Previous to my arrival in the Falkland Islands, I performed research through all of the back issues of the Falkland Islands Association Newsletter, as well as online editions of the Penguin News dating back to 2010.


Much of the historical digital research was used to build up information, as is typically done in historical research. However, I cross-referenced this with competitor lists on the website of the International Island Games Association (IIGA) to be able to create a list of appropriate interviewees, beyond my initial contacts. This material also helped me mould my questions for interviewees.

When seeking interviewees, I prioritised former and current officers of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA), as well as current and former athletes in the Island Games, in a variety of sports and disciplines (especially those who repeatedly took part and/or attended the Games).

Two interviewees based outwith the Falkland Islands were interviewed via email in August and September.

Once in the Falkland Islands, I also arranged other interviews after meeting with my initial contacts.

In total, to date, I have conducted 15 interviews on this project with 20 participants. 11 of these interviews – all face-to-face – were performed whilst I was in the Falkland Islands.

I sought consent and anonymity for all interviewees, but I especially prioritised this for all interviewees under 18 years of age (who were interviewed in focus groups).

Archival research

I spent two and a half days at the Jane Cameron National Archives in Stanley, where I primarily examined 1990s and 2000s editions of the Penguin News, along with 1990s editions of the Teaberry Express.

I also spent roughly a full day examining memoirs, autobiographical material, school yearbooks, and other secondary sources at the Falkland Islands Community School Library in Stanley.

Rosemarie King was also generous enough let me view some of her collection of documents relating to the history of badminton on the Falkland Islands.


Sport based around agriculture has historically formed crucial elements of the Falklands’ social calendar, especially with regard to the Christmas Sports in Stanley and February’s Camp Sports. However, football and badminton also have a considerable history in the Islands – along with other sports, such as darts. One of the few major “British” sporting events on the Falklands calendar was the annual Royal Army rifle meet at Bisley; the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) would annually send representatives to the tournament, where they would compete in a section amongst other territorial units from other imperial and Commonwealth dominions.

The 1982 war and the resulting second Shackleton report brought great changes to the economy and social life of the Falkland Islands: this included the construction of better sport and leisure facilities, most notably the 1990 opening of the Stanley Leisure Centre – and its gleaming 25-foot pool. Swimming became a part of the PE regime at the Stanley Senior School (connected to the Leisure Centre); many children’s parents had not hitherto been swimmers themselves.

The Falkland Islands first made an appearance in the Commonwealth Games in 1982 in Brisbane; it was an especially dramatic one, given that Falklanders’ rifle ranges had been destroyed in the recent War. (Both athletes were rifle shooters.) From 1990 onwards, however, the Falkland Islands regularly participated in the Games. 1990 saw two long-distance runners entered, whilst later years would routinely see athletes enter in the rifle, shotgun, and badminton competitions.

The Commonwealth Games are considered a crucial opportunity for Islanders to transmit messages about themselves, their culture, and their sovereignty. Many athletes and administrators discussed the relevance of “flying the flag”. In part, this is an expression of “Britishness” aimed globally, in light of Argentina’s continuing claims of dominion over the Islands (referred to in Argentina as las Islas Malvinas). However, some interviewers reiterated the relevance of the Commonwealth Games in helping to make sure the Falkland Islands are visible within the Commonwealth of Nations as well, as an act of public diplomacy.

This is certainly the case for the Island Games as well. The Falkland Islands first participated in the Island Games in 1993 in the Isle of Wight, initially at the suggestion of the late Burned Peck. Many participants had fond memories of 1993 (and, due to a large Falklands expatriate community in Southampton, the Islands had a decent-sized support at the Games). However, unlike in the Commonwealth Games, the Falkland Islands have routinely medalled in the Island Games, especially in rifle, shotgun, and (most recently) archery events. The Falklands’ sole gold medallist is pistol shooter Graham Didlick, who won gold at Gotland 1999. The Falklands have also been consistent in sending swimmers, golfers, footballers, and long-distance runners to the Island Games; many have even competed in two sports at different Games. (Athletes’ experiences of the Games can vary heavily depending on which sport they participate in.)

Participation in the Island Games, however, is not cheap. Unlike with the Commonwealth Games, where the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) pays for athletes’ travel, the Island Games requires athletes to fund their own travel. There are many logistical difficulties for the Falkland Islands’ team, and sponsorship of travel and training is accordingly crucial towards continued participation. Narratives of trips via RAF Brize Norton played a part in many of my interviews. Most teams also hold community fundraising events towards helping to defray the cost of travel and kit.

Increasingly, there are subtle tensions and contradictions in the Falklands’ continued participation in sport. The Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA) is essentially the governing body of sport in the Islands; it also represents the Islands in both the Commonwealth and Island Games. Some interviewees considered this an anachronistic arrangement, particularly in the former case, where other nations have Commonwealth Games Federations which are separate organisations.

FIOGA itself increasingly acknowledges that simply “flying the flag” might not be enough. During this decade, FIOGA has brought on board two development officers (one recruited externally, another locally). The Shackleton Scholarship Fund has, in the past, been used to attract qualified coaches for swimming and (especially) badminton to the Falklands. (The Shackleton Fund was also used to fund professional golfer Bernard Gallacher’s 1999 coaching trip to the Falklands, a journey in part arranged by former governor Rex Hunt.) However, most Island Games athletes acknowledged that coaching they received in the UK (and, in the case of badminton, Denmark) in the weeks running up to the Island Games helped raise their game considerably in time for competition. Badminton now has a UK-qualified coach who is from and resides in the Islands, still a rarity as far as competitive sport is concerned. Sporting participation ebbs and flows, and the delicate balance in one sport can be disturbed when another sport becomes more popular.

In the past, the primary competitive goal of Falklands teams has revolved around athletes performing their “personal bests” (in the Island Games, particularly in swimming). Whilst this is still the goal, the perceived need to raise standards of participation means that FIOGA are seeking pastures anew. For the first time in 2015, the national badminton squad competed in the Badminton Pan Am championships, held in Brazil, and the subject of participating in the full Pan Am Games has come up amongst FIOGA committee members as well as athletes. The Falklands’ participation in the 2015 badminton championship was arranged despite late Argentinian protests; and, given that the Falkland Islands are likely to continue to be stymied in their attempts to join FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), participation in the Pan Am Games will likely require further political manoeuvring. (Even outwith the Island Games, other sports are pressing forward with plans to compete abroad within the Americas, particularly a boys’ ice hockey squad, which recently competed in a tournament in Costa Rica.) Some members of the FIOGA committee have expressed the need for an indoor performance facility to ultimately help realise these ambitions.

Much of what I discussed with interviewees, however, placed the broader politics within other experiences: of friendship, of camaraderie, and of first trips to the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

The future of this project

I still have some interviews to perform here in the UK re the Falkland Islands’ participation in sporting tournaments. However, I am looking to have the interviews analysed soon, and will hopefully spend April/May writing a manuscript for the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, a less historical, more policy-based piece on the Falkland Islands in international sporting competition.

I also hope to examine the possibility of a scholarly journal article which examines the Falklands’ sporting history more broadly, with a potential emphasis on the history of badminton, or the history of agricultural sports. I might also write a blog post on the subject. I am, however, looking to write at least one column for some media outlet on the Falkland Islands’ participation in the Commonwealth Games, in time for Gold Coast 2018. As ever, I will keep the Committee informed.

It will take much longer to complete the end goal: a book project on the history of the Island Games. I currently have another book project I am working on first, and it may take several years to complete that one. However, funding from the Shackleton Scholarship Fund has ensured that any future funding applications on the subject – a necessity given the logistical challenges involved – will be improved considerably by proof of previous financing.


I am grateful to the London and Stanley committees of the Shackleton Scholarship Fund for awarding funds to this project; and to Megan Tierney, David Tatham, and Tanya Curtis at International Tours and Travel for their logistical assistance in bringing me to the Falkland Islands. I can also express my gratitude to Professor Rowena Arshad, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education, and Lesley Thomson at the School Research and Knowledge Exchange Office for their support of my application.

I also want to thank a number of individuals for their support ahead of my visit, as well as their assistance in helping me contact individuals and plan my work before my visit to the Falklands: in particular, Sukey Cameron, Representative of the Falkland Islands; Mike Summers, chair of FIOGA and former Member of the Legislative Assembly; Professor Klaus Dodds, Royal Holloway, University of London; Tansy Bishop at the Jane Cameron National Archives; and Patrick Watts, former chair of FIOGA and former manager of Falklands Radio. (I am also grateful to Patrick for his hospitality, and for a free copy of his book The Christmas Sports.)

I am also grateful for the support of a number of individuals whilst in Stanley: two former FIOGA officials, Steve Dent and Rosemarie King, for both their hospitality and their assistance in helping me contact other interviewees; and Colleen Biggs at the Falkland Islands Community School Library, for her assistance in helping me locate literature on the history of sport in the Falklands.

The 1970 British Commonwealth Games: Scottish reactions to apartheid and sporting boycotts

FIONA SKILLEN, Glasgow Caledonian University

MATTHEW L. McDOWELL, University of Edinburgh


The 1970 British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh is widely thought to have been a barnstorming success, and an excellent advertisement for Scotland. Recent research by the authors, however, shows that the event was nevertheless a deeply politicized one: reflective of Scotland’s status as a “stateless nation”, of Westminster politics during the era more generally, and of the politics surrounding apartheid South Africa’s sporting contacts with the outside world. The Games managed to avert a mass boycott organized by the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC), in retaliation for the Marylebone Cricket Club’s recent invitation of the South African national cricket team. This article will explore Scotland’s place as a non-state actor within the 1970 crisis. Attention will be given to the domestic political response, both from Scottish MPs, members of local Scottish councils (particularly within Edinburgh itself), and from Scottish National Party (SNP) activists, angered that Scotland should pay for the crimes perceived to be made by an English sporting body. However, our piece goes beyond these discourses, to examine the broader sporting relationship that Scots had with South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), governed by white supremacist regimes during the period. Policy documents, housed in the National Records of Scotland, express UK Cabinet-level concerns about the actions of individual sporting clubs’ tours of the countries. This article will also look at how cabinet ministers, most notably Labour’s Minister for Sport Denis Howell, intervened to shape Scotland’s devolved sporting councils’ policies on contacts with South Africa and Rhodesia. Continue reading “The 1970 British Commonwealth Games: Scottish reactions to apartheid and sporting boycotts”

One Yankee’s opinion, from the outside looking in.

Matthew L. McDowell

University of Edinburgh

(This is the text of a pre-publication print of: Matthew L. McDowell, ‘One Yankee’s opinion: from the outside looking in’, International Journal of the History of Sport, pre-published online 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2017.1383391. There may be small textual differences between this version and the published version. Any reference made to this paper should refer to the published version.) Continue reading “One Yankee’s opinion, from the outside looking in.”

Review of The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico, by Antonio Sotomayor

(This is the text of a pre-publication print of: Matthew L. McDowell, Review: The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico, Sport in History (pre-published online, 2017). There may be small textual differences between this version and the published version. Any reference made to this paper should refer to the published version.) Continue reading “Review of The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico, by Antonio Sotomayor”

Scottish football and colonial Zimbabwe: sport, the Scottish diaspora, and ‘white Africa’



University of Edinburgh


In 1969 and 1970 respectively, Clyde and Kilmarnock Football Clubs embarked on highly controversial tours of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), then in conflict with the UK over its failure to enact a timetable for majority, non-white rule, and its 1965 unilateral declaration of independence to protect such a system. Despite defying the wishes of the UK Government, these tours were covered very little in Scottish newspapers, and there was little sustained public outcry. This article examines the uneven Scottish and Westminster reactions to the tours (in particular, Kilmarnock’s) in the context of broader policies and movements against Rhodesian and South African sport. It also examines Rhodesian press accounts of the trips, which stressed communion with elements of the Scottish diaspora within Rhodesian civic society. It also addresses the tours’ place within the broader context of work, race and migration during the period 1965-80, where the Rhodesian Front government and its white settler supporters were under continual siege from a multi-pronged nationalist resistance. Critically, this article asks whether or not Scotland and indeed Scottish sport can be extricated from the horrors of decolonisation, in a region where both had deep historic roots. Continue reading “Scottish football and colonial Zimbabwe: sport, the Scottish diaspora, and ‘white Africa’”

Social media and the “public” academic: room for improvement?

I want to say that my relationship with social media exists at arm’s length, but in reality it probably doesn’t. It’s been just under five years ago since a colleague got me to reluctantly join Twitter, ostensibly to promote the British Society of Sports History’s 2012 conference at Glasgow University, where I worked at the time.  I find myself now on the verge of joining Facebook – just about ten years (if not more) after most of you have joined it – also as a means of enlarging my network for research contacts. After many years of being on Academia.edu, I finally migrated my research content and commentary over to WordPress earlier this year. So, it seems as good a time as any to take stock of what social media has provided me, what it hasn’t, and why a low social-media period at the beginning of this year felt like a good thing. Continue reading “Social media and the “public” academic: room for improvement?”

Scottish records, academic history, and higher education


The following paper was a talk given at Pass It On! Celebrating Scotland’s Sporting Heritage: Friday, 24 February 2017 at the University of Stirling Library. Continue reading “Scottish records, academic history, and higher education”

Review of Sport & Ireland: A History, by Paul Rouse


This is the text of the pre-publication print of: Matthew L. McDowell, Review, Sport & Ireland: A History, by Paul Rouse, Irish Studies Review (pre-published 2017). There may be small textual differences between this version and the published version. Any reference made to this paper should refer to the published version. Continue reading “Review of Sport & Ireland: A History, by Paul Rouse”