Monday, 16 November 2015


Ninety five years ago “Shoeless” Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox was allegedly approached by a young fan with the words “say it aint so Joe.”  The reference was to the fact the White Sox had thrown the 1919 World Series, losing to underdogs the Cincinatti Reds. Eight White Sox players including Joe Jackson were banned for life and the baseball establishment was rocked.

Today sport is very big business - global sponsorship is worth $58 billion - up 27% in the past five years. Yet sport is troubled and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a weary cynicism towards it. Nearly all sports are run by a hegemony of people like Ecclestone, Blatter, Diack, Srinivasan (respectively, Formula One, Football, Athletics and Cricket) and  resemble recent dictatorships in the Middle East. But unravel their rule and does worse follow?

Whenever there’s a strange result in sport nowadays I wonder, I just wonder if something fishy is going on. Why is everyone getting so upset about Russia’s doping programme? They and East Germany have, we all assumed, been at it for years and blind eyes had been turned. What is sad is to see Seb “Mr Clean” Coe being turned over in the midst of allegations which he surely must have known about and simply ignored or worse… “say it aint so Coe”.

Without anyone seeming to worry too much Cricket has been taken over by India where the match fixing scandals are endemic. Just this summer two of the top sides in the Indian Premier League, the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, were suspended for two years having been found guilty in an illegal betting and match-fixing probe. The owners of both sides were suspended from all cricket-related activities for life. The respective captains of these sides are MS Dhoni (the Indian captain) and Steve Smith (the Australian captain). Worried? You should be. Meanwhile Chris Cairns, ex New Zealand cricket star, still on trial at Southwark Crown Court for match fixing, was compared to Lance Armstrong for the damage he’s done to his sport.

But does it really matter? Sport seems to me to have become increasingly boring and trivial. I found the recent Rugby World Cup mostly dull, Football is nearly always wretched, Athletics is a catwalk sport owned by Nike, Adidas and the others and cricket has become a wham bam of a spectacle, the equivalent of willow wielding penalty shoot-outs rife with corruption.

A friend suggested to me life would be simpler if only we allowed athletes to take whatever drugs they wanted because that’s going to be the only level playing field you’ll get. Most of my life I’ve believed in my heroes, the Seb Coes, Rod Lavers, Bobby Moores and Chris Cairns yet when the veil of romanticism is lifted there’s nothing there but a lot of money, some sweat and a lot of pretence.

Sorry but  it really is so.

Money in Sport A Conference this year in Australia

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