Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sport in Crisis?

Everywhere you look at the moment on the back pages there seems to be another story about some sort of off-the-field problem in one sport or another.

This week, the football headlines have been full of the three Leicester players currently being held in a Spanish jail for the alleged sexual assault of three women near La Manga but in recent weeks there has also been a lot in the news about Leeds United'sfinancial problems and trouble within the Man Utd board.

Horseracing has also taken a battering this week with the row over betting exchanges and Kieren Fallon and Sean Fox being accused of throwing away winning positions. The integrity of the sport of kings is in serious danger because these issues are rooted in the central source of funding for the whole sport: betting. A lot of the money going into racing could dry up if further allegations are made, let alone if any of it is actually proven, as punters decide to stop gambling on a sport tarnished as 'fixed'.

There are worries that not all the venues for this summer's Olympics in Athens, the home of the modern Olympic Games, will be completely ready in time for the start of the games in August. Chief among these is the glass roof over the Olympic stadium itself. Elsewhere in athletics, drugs are taking their toll once more as the row over THG continues. Can an athlete really be held responsible for having a designer performance enhancing drug in his body when he isn't aware of the drug and at the time it's not even known about by the authorities? Dwain Chambers is sick of the whole thing and is quitting athletics completely, probably for a life on the other side of the Atlantic in the NFL.

Drugs are also still making waves in the tennis world with Rusedski finding out in the next few days what his fate will be after testing positive for Nandralone last year. There are calls for a boycott by players if he is found guilty.

Lastly, I present that most civilised of sports, cricket. The ECB are once again caught between a rock and a hard place over whether to tour Zimbabwe or not. On the one hand, the British Government is urging them not to tour, because of the problems with Robert Mugabe, but on the other they have a fine of over £1m and possible suspension from the ICC if they don't. The whole problem would be solved if the government actually came out and instructed the ECB not to go as that would be accepted by the ICC but at the moment they are only going as far as giving 'advice' and are leaving the decision up to the ECB.

So why is it that all of a sudden all these problems are coming to light? Will they escalate any further and, if so, what else will come to light? What, if anything, needs to be done to solve these crises?

I don't know the answer to any of those questions but if I come up with anything, you'll be the first to know.

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