Dalton Myers | Windrush scandal and its impact on sports
Earlier this week, journalist Amelia Gentleman of The Guardian wrote another story on the Windrush saga about a boxer trapped in Jamaica for 13 years after not being allowed to return to Britain. The piece clearly articulated what I consider the link between the Windrush and sports.
I enjoy watching the documentary Fire in Babylon for many reasons including the fact It's there that I started to understand the connection between sports and the Empire Windrush vessel that transported people of the British West Indies to help build the 'mother country', Britain.
The Windrush debacle emanating from exposure of atrocities under Britain's 'hostile environment policy' towards Immigrants is one of the worst things I've seen happen to black people of the Caribbean since slavery. The Windrush generation refers to people from the Caribbean who were invited to search for work in Britain and help rebuild the country post WWII. In June 1948, the MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks carrying approximately 492 Caribbean passengers, hence the name Windrush Generation. Many jobseekers arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1970 , particularly under the Nationality Act of 1948.
They helped with the development of sports in Britain. They were not players at the time, but many went to work for sport, especially at cricket, clubs, contributing to areas such as infrastructure development as groundsmen, labourers, mechanics, and later as coaches, supporters and players. Importantly, they also contributed by paying taxes. Their children would become part of Britain's millennial generation now contributing to all facets of Britain's sporting industry.
I was heartbroken to learn of the many cases in which immigrants were wrongfully detained, deported, and in many instances, refused re-entry to Britain after visiting family in Jamaica. In some cases, they were told that their indefinite leave had expired and would not be renewed.
There is the case of cricketer Richard Stewart, who played for Middlesex and was considered a 'home-grown player'. He is now not able to get a British passport and has not visited Jamaica for fear of not being allowed to return to Britain. This week, we also learnt of boxer Vernal Vanriel, trapped in Jamaica for 13 years after visiting the island of his birth to see relatives. Vanriel, who is now sick and destitute, left Jamaica at age six and was refused re-entry into Britain. Since news broke, he has been offered documents to travel.
Former Barbados and West Indies cricketer Collis King, who has a British wife, now faces challenges returning to Britain, where he has been playing cricket for the past 40 years at club level. King began playing in England after being exiled from the West Indies set-up following his participation in the South Africa 'Rebel Tour'. However, his case, like so many is being seen as part of this hostile immigration policy; and while not a direct Windrush Generation immigrant, he now suffers the same fate as those he played to entertain in Britain and in the 1979 Cricket World Cup.
In Fire in Babylon, Gordon Greenidge spoke about moving to England at age 14 and what that meant for him as a youngster trying to survive in a space that did not want him. That feeling of discrimination is what helped to push the West Indies team of 1976 onwards to always want to beat England, especially in England. In that series, particularly, the comments by former England captain Tony Greg about wanting to make the West Indies team 'grovel" not only ignited the flame inside of the players, but also helped them to use that and the feeling of victimisation to push their cricket and use the sport as a form of nationalism. Importantly, winning in England also helped the West Indians living there, that Windrush generation, to feel a sense of pride and happiness.
There are so many sides to this Windrush scandal; so many faces. Never forget, though, how critical these immigrants were to developing the sporting industry in Britain by doing some of the jobs others would not do, like working in factories, repairing machinery, groundsmen, as well as through the dedication and determination of their children and grandchildren who have continued living there as nationals.
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org