Sunday, 6 February 2011

Leave it to the governing bodies.

For what it is worth, I think the ICC got it spot on with the suspensions handed down to the three Pakistani cricketers who indulged in a bit of spot fixing during their tour of England over the summer. Had the three (and the agent) been involved in fixing the outcome of the match, then I would have expected to see life bans handed down.

It is very easy to criticise the governing bodies of sport, it is also usually justified. The governing body of cycling, the UCI, have been pretty ineffective in tackling the performance enhancing drug abuse which seems to be running rampant through the sport. Alberto Contador, who won le Tour last year, is the latest high profile case to fall foul of the doping regulations, with the usual claims of accidental contamination. Another big name from the sport, Floyd Landis, who has held his hands up to the offence has also implicated the absolute biggest name in the history of the sport, Lance Armstrong in the same.

I'm not about to defame Contador here, it may be that his protestations of innocence are credible, certainly from the amounts declared it would appear that if you want to be a top class athlete you also need to be a food scientist.

The football world in the UK is scratching its head at the fine of £25,000 imposed on Blackpool for fielding a 'weakened' team in a match against Aston Villa in the Premier League in November. Blackpool's entertaining manager, Ian Holloway, said at the time that if the club were fined for making ten changes to their team, then he'd resign. The situation is a farce. At the start of the season, each Premier League club is instructed to submit a squad of 25 players for registration in the competition (excluding players under the age of 21, who can be, but do not have to be registered). One would have thought that having submitted that squad, each manager is then free to pick whichever 11 players he sees fit. So Holloway has registered his squad, picked his eleven, all from the registered squad and has seen his club fined by some administrators who obviously think that they are more qualified to pick his team than he is. The irony is that the 'big' clubs, the Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas of the league will regularly make large changes to teams in the games immediately before Champions League fixtures, when facing smaller opposition in the FA cup and will stick out a team comprised completely of reserve, youth team and very occasional first team players in the League Cup. Has the FA ever fined them? No. They wouldn't dare.

It is an unfortunate truth that the ICC have marked themselves out as being the exception rather than the rule. In most other sports, the governing bodies quake at the thought of rapping the big clubs and names over the knuckles, and as a result sanctions that they hand out are uneven and inconsistent. By handing out 5 year bans to Butt and Asif, the ICC have shown no such fear in the face of two of the most established stars in the game.

But there's a problem, sport is popular, so the authorities can't help getting involved in it. Just because it is popular, they make the mistake of thinking it is important. So we see stories like this:

The Football Association say there is "no justification'' for direct Government intervention into the governance of the game and have warned their organisation could face FIFA sanctions if politicians overstepped the mark.

The comments, made in written evidence from the FA to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into football governance, follow comments from sports minister Hugh Robertson, who described football as the "worst governed'' sport in Britain.

Which is kind of like Charlie Kennedy berating the pub industry for taking one or two too many drinks. There simply is no justification for politicians to get involved here, and given the track records of politicians any intervention from them would increase costs, expand red tape and ensure the sport is even worse governed. It is what politicians do.

It is also the CPS getting involved as well.

Prosecutors in Britain announced on Friday that batsman Butt and seamers Amir and Asif would face criminal charges over their part in last year's alleged spot-fixing scandal, specifically over their actions in the fourth Test at Lord's.

Why? No-one has been injured here. The result of the match was unaffected and the noises about spot fixing in the game in the sub-continent have been running for so long that any punter who stuck a few quid on anything beyond the final result is a fool or in on it. Likewise the bookies who took such a bet need to take a look at themselves for being so credulous.

The three Pakistani cricketers are in Pakistan, a country we have no extradition treaty with, so any attempt to get them back to the UK if they don't surrender themselves would be very expensive and probably fruitless, that, coupled with the expense of trial and imprisonment, means that surely a prosecution just isn't in the public interest.

The ICC have shown that governing bodies are perfectly capable of administering their own kingdoms without 'help' from the politicians or apparatus of state. The politicians would do well to realise this and back off. We need to cut back areas of life where they are involved, not to increase them. 

No comments: