Double May Mean Nothing

There are many who believe that the Australian Finals system is all well and good but that the real champions are the team who came out on top over the whole season, and the winners of the finals should be given a less meaningful title. The truth is that is not going to change, as unfair as it may seem. However it is not as unfair as the F1 Grand Prix Championship this year.

This year the organisers of the F1 Championship introduced a controversial final-race double points system. No doubt to try and combat one driver pulling away with the Championship and the last race being meaningless. Yet that is the way sport is. If one driver is good enough to wrap up the Championship before the end of the season he deserves to be crowned Champion.

At present Lewis Hamilton is 17 points clear of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with three races to go, starting in the USA this weekend. He has recorded nine race wins to the German’s four. Yet depending on results, Hamilton could win in Austin and Brazil and still lose the title if he retired in Abu Dhabi. Which hardly seems fair.

There will no doubt be many who will say that he knew the rules at the start of the F1 season as did all the other drivers, so they have nothing to complain about. This is a fair comment, but how many sporting titles would have changed hands if teams had been rewarded double points in the last game of the season if they won?

“It would suck if that was the case – big time,” Hamilton told the BBC if he were to lose the title in the aforementioned hypothetical scenario. “This is the rule that they have brought in for the first time. Do I really agree with it? I don’t know if any of us agree with it or do not agree with it, but it is the way it is and you just have to deal with it and just hope for the best really.”

Interestingly the man most likely to benefit from the new rule Nico Rosberg was one of the strongest opponents of the double-points idea when it was introduced. He has said he is still opposed to it, but conceded that F1 had to be open to new ideas.
“It is a bit artificial, the double points,” Rosberg said. “My opinion is keep it straightforward, which is the way F1 has been forever.”

Let us hope that when it comes down to the final race the double points plays little or no part in deciding the Championship and it is shelved in 2015.

October 31, 2014 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

The Truth Behind those Smiles and Gritted Teeth

When we look at elite athletes we always think they are models for a healthy life. Yet behind those gritted teeth and winning smiles lurks the truth.

Experts from Britain and America have just reviewed 39 published studies into the oral health of professional sportsmen and women and the findings have not been good.

They found that 15-75% – a very wide spectrum – were affected with decaying teeth. moderate to severe gum disease affected 15% and enamel erosion 36-85%.

These figures back up a survey carried out at the London 2012 Olympics where 46.5% of athletes admitted that they had not been to the dentist in the past year. Of those 18% admitted dental problems had affected their performance in the past year.

“Oral health could be an easy win for athletes, as the oral conditions that can affect performance are all easily preventable,” said Ian Needleman a professor at the University College of London who co-led the latest study.

The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that athletes face intense dietary and training pressures, all of which took a toll on their teeth. Saliva helps protect the teeth from erosion and decay, so dehydration during strenuous exercise can easily increase the risk of oral ill health.

Fast energy replenishment leads to athletes using high carbohydrate diets or drinking sugary, acidic energy drinks which can in fact boost the risk of tooth decay and enamel damage.

“We do not want to demonise energy drinks and are not saying that athletes shouldn’t use them, however people should be aware of the risks to oral health and can take simple measures to mitigate these. For example water or hypotonic drinks are likely to be more suitable for simple dehydration and spit don’t rinse after brushing,” was Mr Needleman’s advice. “For sports where athletes need a lot of energy drinks, high fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses should be considered.”

No reason was given as to why athletes defer trips to their dentist, but one advised that on their meagre earnings the cost is extremely prohibitive.

October 30, 2014 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Looking Outside the Circle

The English FA Chief Executive Alex Home is departing his job after five years in the chair in January. He is believed to have done a reasonable job, in a role that is seen somewhat as a poisoned chalice; ask his predecessors, Ian Watmore, Brian Barwick, Mark Palios and Adam Crozier their views on holding the top job.

Two things that come from the FA’s search for a replacement that are extremely interesting. Firstly the salary on offer. Home was earning UKL580,000 per year (AUD$1,056,000). When we look at how many of Australia’s sporting Chief Executive’s are earning around the same figure or more, yet are managing a sport that is not even close to being on a par with the numbers and exposure football has in England, maybe we are overpaying our top men? There have been many who have said that such a role should be far more dependent on results with bonuses built in rather than a set salary; bonuses based on participation numbers, sponsorship, qualification for international competitions, etcetera.

The other interesting thing to come out of Mr Home’s departure is that the English are in fact now looking overseas for a replacement due to what has been described as a “paucity of top class administrators in the game in this country,” by one of the head hunting companies tasked with finding the ideal candidate.

The reason for this is clear the world over. Sports administration has now become a career. Twenty years ago the top administrators were people who had proved themselves in the business or outside world and brought that practical business know-how to sport. Today’s sports administrators are career administrators, some fortunate to have a passion for the sport that they administer, others biding time in one sport until an opportunity comes up in the sport they love.

Interestingly one of the key British candidates is former British Olympic Chief Simon Clegg who is now based in Azerbaijan where he is organising next year’s inaugural European Games in the capital Baku. Clegg is not a career administrator, and at 54 is one of the last of the ‘old school’ candidates who gained his skills in the British army where he was a major. He learned his administrative and diplomatic skills in this environment, and while on secondment from the Army he managed the British Biathlon Team in 1984/85. He was then nominated by the British Ski Federation to be the British Olympic Association’s Team Quartermaster for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary and was asked to carry out a similar role at the Seoul Summer olympics.

In 1989 Clegg left the army and joined the British Olympic Association as Assistant General Secretary becoming Deputy General Secretary two years later and eventually became the organisation’s first Chief Executive.

It was not all wine and roses for Clegg as he was part of Manchester’s failed bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, but he did drive the move for London to bid for the 2012 Games. He then left The British Olympic Association to become Chief Executive of Ipswich Town, where he is best remembered for sacking Roy Keane.

Clegg is a prime example of someone who has learned his skills in other areas and transferred those skills to a sporting environment. It is that grounding that makes him stand out as an administrator. The problem with career sports administrators is often they lack the knowledge as to how things work in the industries they have to deal with; such as how media outlets operate, corporate sponsorships operate. All they have to go is what they learned at university, rather than learning in the workplace.

As sport became an industry in Australia in the late 1980’s, sports administration became a course that appealed to many who wanted to ride the gravy train. If we look around sports in Australia now, and Not The Footy Show has dealt with over 50 sports in the nine years we have been on air, Australia has some outstanding administrators, but they also have some dreadful ones with no flair or adaptability skills necessary in such a role. As the search for a CEO at the English FA has shown we are not alone. Finding good people is not easy and hence the reason many CEO’s are recycled at various levels of sport.

Many an organisation may be better served looking outside for their ideal man or woman, rather than a career sports administrator. These candidates have the ability to bring a fresh approach and an adaptability that will only benefit the various sports in the long term.

October 29, 2014 at 11:03 am 1 comment

Transparency is Clearly The Way of the Future.

Two weeks ago Michael Garcia the author of FIFA’s report into corruption allegations concerning the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups spoke out at the ABA Criminal Justice Section International White Collar Crime Institute Conference about FIFA’s lack of transparency, based on the fact that his report will never be shared with the public.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has stated that publishing the report would be compromising witness confidentiality.

“That’s a kind of system which might be appropriate for an intelligence agency, but not for an ethics compliance process in an international sports institution that serves the public and is the subject of intense public scrutiny.” Garcia is quoted as saying in response.

He went on to say “Transparency is not intended to embarrass certain individuals by airing dirty laundry or to harm the organisation by showing what went wrong. Its the opposite. Where the institution have taken significant steps forward and made that progress, transparency provides evidence of that to the public.” Something many organisations failure to comprehend.

It is often the lack of transparency and sharing of information that raises suspicions amongst those passionate about sport or other organisations. In a world where information is far more readily available than in the past, trite press releases no longer satisfy that hunger for facts and honesty.

Garcia has come out and stated that the controversy surrounding the bidding process has given FIFA the “ideal opportunity to reform their practices.” Yet few expect that the world’s governing body will listen and take action. Sadly the powers that be in every member nation will also do little to enforce change for fear of retribution if they speak out.

The sad thing is FIFA could learn from the International Olympic Committee. They too were embroiled in a scandal involving bribery and the hosting of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. They brought in stringent new rules about bidding, and also published the results of their investigations.

Recently the NFL in America has shown a lack of transparency in their investigation into star player Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancé. This lead to scepticism and questions over the integrity of the leadership of the NFL, and as a result they have now had to bring in outside council to carry out a further investigation, and try to restore the public’s faith. They have also announced that the findings of the new investigation will be made public.

Gone are the days of keeping such investigations in-house. Disgruntled employees are everywhere and information can in most cases be gleaned from someone within most organisations who does not agree in the secretive approach. FIFA’s view shows how out of touch its management are with the real world, but other institutions can learn a great deal from their mistakes.

October 29, 2014 at 8:00 am 1 comment

A Token Gesture?

Was Perth a last minute thought? Or are the administrators simply not on the ball.

Yesterday “Not the Footy Show” was alerted to the fact that the FFA are holding a Fan Forum meeting at Perth Soccer Club tonight. The FFA themselves had sent out no media advice on the meeting and neither had Football West; although apparently they did send an invite out to all clubs. Something that may have been rather futile in the off season unless you are sure that club secretaries will forward to all their members. Oh and they did send a tweet!

The meeting is to be attended by Damien de Bohun, Head of Hyundai A-League, Emma Highwood, Head of Community Football and Women’s Football and Kyle Patterson Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications. It is hoped that Mr Patterson will not be chairing the meeting this time around as his heavy-handed protectionist approach did not go down well last time in the West. (Should Patterson Apologise)

Football West did put a post up on their website about the Forum on Sunday but stated “for catering and space purposes, registration is vital.” Registrations were to be received by “before 5pm on Monday, October 27.” So obviously they are assuming that people go to the Football West website on a Monday in the off season and will read this and then in 24 hours respond.

Supposedly this meeting is important, as it is Western Australia’s opportunity to share its thoughts on CEO David Gallop’s light-on-facts “State of the Game” address. (A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action)

The list of important issued planned to be discussed include: The cost of football, The governance of football, Grassroots facilities, referees and coaches, The development of elite youth players, What should we be trying to achieve with the national team? What should our competitions look like? How do we grow the supporter base of Australian football?

If these issues are so important – and some definitely are – why are the “Football family” in Western Australia only given 48 hour notice on such a meeting?

The last forum held in the West there was very little listening to issues by the FFA representatives and it appears given the promotion of this event that once again they are only paying lip service to the West.

It would appear that these three senior executives at the FFA who happen to be in Western Australia for the FFA Cup quarter final on Wednesday night have decided to make the trip more justifiable, and opted to throw together a fan forum, following their meetings with Perth Glory and Football West.

Football in Western Australia and those involved in the game deserve more respect than a last minute Forum that few are aware of.  Some would go so far as to say that Football West with its invitation letters were actually trying to control those who attend. If hardly anyone goes the Football fraternity in the West will be accused of ‘not caring.’ If they come and air genuine grievances, will the FFA listen or will they once again dismiss us as being the ‘Wild West?’  Let us not forget that following the last forum and the opposition to the NPL, CEO David Gallop advised the Football West board to ‘stare down’ the detractors and ensure it went ahead. The reason being the FFA had already completed the document it was submitting to the Asian Football Confederation stating the NPL was going ahead, and they submitted it prior to two states coming on board.

There has been little evidence so far that Football West (The More Things Change the More they Stay The Same) or the FFA are prepared to listen, and act upon the genuine concerns or recommendation of clubs at semi professional and amateur level or even at A-League level.

Until there is more open communication and more honesty Forums such as these are a waste of time, and are simply the FFA ticking a box to say that they have engaged with the “Football Family.” What has been done about making sure development fees are paid to clubs on time? An issue raised in Melbourne at a fan Forum almost two years ago and in the one in Perth in May 2013. If these meetings are to be successful the FFA needs to take on board the issues and act upon them. The fact that little or no follow up has taken place in a year and the cost to play the game at Junior level has risen to a level that has seen some families walk away from the game would say it is definitely time to listen.

Sadly trust now comes into play. Trust has been eroded due to broken promises and that failure to listen and address concerns, by the FFA and Football West.  It will take a great deal more than holding a Fan Forum at the last minute to restore faith in the FFA’s pathway for the game. It is time for transparency and financial figures to be shared. The Football Family deserve to know where monies are being spent, and especially funds given by Government agencies and FIFA. These funds are given for set areas of the game, but rumour is rife that they are being used in other areas of the game, and not being given to those they are intended for.

Hopefully those able to attend at the last minute will report back that there has been a change in attitude; but actions always speak louder than words, and tonight is likely to be the same as similar events before, a lot of head nodding and talk, which will result in little or no change in the future.

 

October 28, 2014 at 9:29 am 5 comments

Who Will Pay?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is about to go head to head with the International Olympic Committee over the timing of the 2022 World Cup, and the fact that it’s mooted dates clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics and certain television station with rights to both events are not happy.

There are many who believe that the only way Qatar can possibly be stripped of the hosting rights would be if American attorney Michael Garcia’s recently completed report into corruption allegations surrounding the bidding process for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights found any wrong doing. The problem is FIFA does not wish to publish the report, even though Mr Garcia has urged them to do so. Mr Blatter claims the reasons for the confidentiality is that promises were made to witnesses that the report would stay in house.

This could easily be bypassed if witnesses were contacted and asked if they were happy for their evidence to be in the public domain and if not a substitute name used.

FIFA’s hierarchy appear to have created this mess. If as is suspected by many they did accept incentives to vote for Qatar, they should never have then agreed to move the tournament dates. All other parties bidding state that the bidding process stipulated a northern summer competition. So by moving the goalposts to allay fears of high temperatures at that tim win Qatar, FIFA have in fact ‘moved the goalposts.’

Now the European Club Association (ECA) have stated that European clubs will not foot the bill should the FIFA task force currently looking into the moving of the tournament to a Norther hemisphere winter competition decide this is the way to go.

Such a move would cause huge disruption to the European domestic leagues and Chairman of ECA Karl-Heinze Ruminegge is concerned that his 204 members will be expected to pay the price.

“If we have a change from summer to November or to January, then they will be affecting our business, our calendar, and the bill at the end can’t be paid by the clubs. We are not ready to pay such a bill.” Ruminegge said a couple of weeks ago at the Leaders Sports Business Summit at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago. “It has to be clear to FIFA and everybody who is now strongly involved in wishing to change the date that they will need the goodwill of the clubs, otherwise we are not ready to talk and discuss about it.”

If however FIFA’s task force does opt to move the tournament, and Blatter manages to work out a deal with the IOC who will pay the compensation to the European clubs and the television stations who are contracted to air their games?

It would appear that those at the top were blinded by their own short term gain rather than the long term good of the game. If Mr Garcia’s report does confirm suspicions that inducements were received by the Executive Committee, and that these inducements affected the voting, one has to ask do those inducements in anyway match the ultimate cost to FIFA, should they be left to negotiate and pay compensation for the change in schedule?

In 2013 FIFA reported a USD$72 million surplus in what was a record year for FIFA with an income of $1.386 billion; Not bad for a not for profit organisation, as Mr Blatter advised the world earlier this year. That money will soon be eaten up should the European clubs seek recompense and that could change the face of World football forever.

Will we see politics come to the fore though before a dollar is paid? UEFA have wanted a European heading up the game ever since Joao Havelange blindsided Sir Stanley Rous in 1974. This may be their chance to regain control of world football. A deal being struck behind the close doors of FIFA in Zurich that sees Mr Blatter forced aside or his beloved FIFA facing bankruptcy if he stays.

World Football may end up never finding out what was in Michael Garcia’s report, they may also end up with a World Cup no one wanted in Qatar, but if it means a change at the top of the game and the chance to sweep clean those at the top, it may be a small price to pay.

October 28, 2014 at 7:41 am 1 comment

A Scourge on Sport

What is going on in sport today? We have had betting scandals in football and cricket, doping scandals in athletics, AFL, swimming and cycling to name just some of the sports. A week ago in Malaysia a doping scandal erupted in Wushu that led to the President of the Wushu Federation tendering his resignation.

The gold medallist at the Asian Games Tai Cheau Xuen was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive to a banned substance, she lost her appeal and has been suspended by the World Anti Doping Agency for two years(WADA). The question is, is this enough? It is clear that WADA and all of its satellite agencies are unable to keep up in terms of testing with the drug cheats, and those who are caught usually receive the mandatory two year ban.

The sad thing is the clean opponents they have beaten are robbed of their moment in the spotlight, standing on the dais receiving their deserved gold, silver or bronze medal, and seeing their country’s flag raised. A moment lost forever to whoever is retrospectively wins bronze. The fans and the paying public too are robbed of watching a genuine event and will remember what they witnessed for all of the wrong reasons.

There was recently controversy over American sprinter Justin Gatlin being in the original list of ten nominees for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award. His nomination due because he was unbeaten in the 100m and 200m this season.

Gatlin served a four year ban after testing positive for testosterone in 2006. His nomination so angered German discus thrower Robert Harting that he withdrew from consideration for the award. Lord Coe also aired reservations that Gatlin should be part of the list to be selected for the major prize. Incidentally he did not make the final three who were Qatari high jumper Essa Barshim, Kenyan marathon World Record holder, Dennis Kipruto Kimetto and pole vault indoor world record holder Renaud Lavillienie who broke Sergei Bubka’s 21 year old record.

Gatlin responded by saying “I’m sad to say that a lot of people out there feel that, ‘once a doper, always a doper.’ But that makes no sense. That means you don’t believe your system is working.” I am sure many would agree with the last comment, they do not believe the system is working.

There are many who believe that Gatlin served the time and should therefore be given a clean slate and allowed to continue in his chosen field. Yet when it comes to sport, where emotions run hot, there are others who feel a drug cheat should be banned for life.

There is no doubt the ramifications of one athletes actions are far-reaching. The sport is disgraced as we have seen in cycling, and suddenly every impressive performance is sadly met with a raised quizzical eyebrow and that element of doubt creeps in as to whether it was a ‘genuine’ performance.

The same is true of betting in sport. In Singapore it is incredible to hear that the betting on football per weekend exceeds the money taken at the three Casinos.

For so long it was believed that cricket and football were the only two sports affected by betting and the fixing of matches. Yet just over a week ago it appeared that Badminton has now been rocked by revelations that two Danish shuttlers were involved in attempting to fix matches along with a Malaysian bookie.

These are indeed very sad days for sport in general and especially sports fans as no longer can one watch any sport without wondering if it has been fixed or if one competitor has an unfair and illegal advantage.

What is the answer? Lifetime bans for athletes caught taking illegal substances? Lifetime bans for athletes involved in betting already exist in many sports, as well as prison terms, yet it still does not seem to deter athletes. Should betting on sporting events be banned by governments? This is extremely unlikely as the taxes accrued by most governments from betting is phenomenal.

Betting and doping have become a massive issue in the sporting landscape and one cannot help feeling if they are not addressed with strong uniform actions globally, events will truly become “Unbelievable.”

World sport needs swift and strong action if it is to survive as it is. Of course once belief is suspended then people look for other entertainment, and that could leave many clubs and television stations in a precarious position if viewers and fans start to walk away. We are not at that stage yet but unless something is done soon it is not too far away, as more and more cases are coming to the fore.

October 27, 2014 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

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