Wednesday, 30 November 2011

BBC Sports Personality of the Year nominations

Lots of moaning on Twitter etc about the nominated group, particularly re no women being in the mix. But let's have a look at the list and see who might have genuinely been robbed of a spot on the list.

Mark Cavendish - incredible year and worthy favourite.

Luke Donald - number one golfer in the world, huge achievement despite not winning a major.

Rory McIlroy - bagged Caroline Wozniacki, that's worth being on the list in itself! But seriously, won the US Open and has an amazing career ahead of him.

Darren Clarke - won the Open Championship despite his career starting to wain. A real personality of professional golf, so depending on which quality you think defines this award...

Mo Farah - outstanding year on the track. No longer the best of the non-Africans, he is now world champion at 5000m and world silver medallist in the 10000m.

Dai Greene - world champion at the 400 sticks. Doubt it puts him above Farah, but popular guy, Welsh support etc..

Andrew Strauss - led England to a decisive Ashes victory in Australia, and onto no.1 in the world.

Alistair Cook - his unstoppable form in that Ashes series was a key ingredient of that success. (Several others in the team - Anderson, Trott, Swann, Prior - could have been named but always tough with a champion team)

Andy Murray - many will be critical but this has actually been his best year on the circuit. Reaching the semis of all four Slams is a huge feat, especially in an era where each of the top three have genuine reasons for being mentioned in greatest of all time discussions.

Amir Khan - the one query for me, named British Boxer of the Year and won two fights during the period in question.


Seems quite a valid list to me, glad to see there are no footballers or rugby players on there, purely for the sake of it. Who has missed out then? A few names being mentioned:

Nick Matthew - dual world squash champion. Unfortunately a largely anonymous sport in the UK now.

Alistair Brownlee - world champion triathlete for the second time. Again, very little coverage here, but at least he will have a chance at the spotlight in 2012 with the Olympics.

Keri-Ann Payne - world open water champion for the second time. But with the World Swimming Championships being held in Asia this year (wrong timezone) and open water being the lesser known sibling of pool racing, her achievements are largely unknown.

Chrissie Wellington - I had to look this one up. World women's ironman champion. Obviously a fantastic achievement but how can she be SPOTY in a sport which is completely anonymous in the UK??

Helen Jenkins - star triathlete. See Alistair Brownlee re lack of coverage.

Kath Grainger - world champion rower. Largely anonymous sport outside of Olympic years. Male rowers who won gold at the World titles didn't get a mention either.

Sarah Stevenson - taekwondo champion. Largely anonymous sport outside of Olympic years.

Rebecca Adlington - world champion swimmer at 800m. Has been here before. Probably the only one on the 'not nominated' list that the average punter would recognise. In a non-Olympic year, the only way a swimmer could win this award is with a Michael Phelps-like performance. A distance swimmer is never going to do that.


The Independent explains it well in this article.

It's a pretty simple equation - women's sports generally have a fairly narrow range of popularity. Those in the window this year, most notably Jessica Ennis, didn't take their chances. Those who did shine are largely anonymous - did any of their achievements make mention on Sky Sports or BBC News?

Contrast this to Australia where Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker has just declared Sally Pearson, world 100m hurdles champion in a time widely recognised as the fastest ever by a clean athlete, as the greatest current Australian athlete in any sport right now (and wouldn't be far off the mark either).

British women will get their chance next year when they will win more gold medals than the men. Any mandatory inclusion of a woman in the field reeks of tokenism. The sports they currently achieve highly in simply aren't in the public eye - that's the root of the problem. Bravo to Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson for facing the reality of the situation:

"I wouldn't want tokenism and I wouldn't want a woman to be on the list just because she was a woman," she said.

"But I think you just look at where the nominations have come from and that highlights another problem really - only 2% of media coverage in sport goes to women."

Thompson added that women "just aren't on the minds" of editors or producers.

"You're fighting against the system all the time," she said. "It's the big sports all the time that get the recognition."



For me the bigger issue is why lads' magazines like Zoo and Nuts are asked to vote (no women's equivalent is on the list), while the only specialist daily sports newspaper in the country, the Racing Post, isn't? It's far more than just racing. And the Manchester Evening News should be banned forever for ardent parochialism, to the extent of selecting foreign footballers playing for Manchester teams (Berbatov, Toure and Vieira). Idiots.

And let's be realistic about who is capable of winning anyway - the last few years have shown it comes down to the best coordinated social media campaign. Sporting achievements merely qualify them for the shortlist..

Monday, 21 November 2011

industry update

Ok, plenty been happening lately, here's some of the news in brief.


Betfair - have announced the new CEO, Breon Corcoran from Paddy Power, will take over in August 2012 after a lengthy stint of enforced gardening. The company still need to find a new Chairman with Ed Wray intending to stand down. Last week, Chief Commercial Officer Niall Wass announced he was leaving the firm after missing out on the CEO job. He's off to an even bigger money-grubber firm in the short-term loaners Wonga. No great loss there, he has been high up the company through a lot of their woes. It is expected that Corcoran will bring in several people to take key posts. Andrew Black sold off around £1.5m of shares, apparently for a new tech firm investment he's involved with. It's not as if he's cashing out just out yet, his stake in Betfair is still valued at around £75m.

Denmark and Spain are ready to open up for licensing, with several international firms lining up to apply. Meanwhile in Greece, why would you bother when the economy is such a basket case? In France, the government have achieved their objective of expanding the business of the local former monopolies at the same time as pissing off all the foreign firms who are rightfully pissed off at the ridiculous taxation regime in place. Similarly, other firms who haven't restricted French customers and aren't blocked are enjoying additional business as the French punters who get wise about the ridiculous margins forced upon locally-licensed operators force them to be uncompetitive. Unibet will be handing in their French licence and cashing in on the marketing expenditure of EurosportBet whose owners they have just purchased. Why waste money on advertising heavily, when you can get someone else to do it for you, then only pay €5m for the firm? Sounds like smart business to me....

In Australia, the hopes of anyone getting any money back from SportsAlive are very slim. The appeal decision in the race fields legislation case between Racing NSW and Sportsbet & Betfair is getting closer, and the national racing industry might finally be able to set a consistent policy nationwide in relation to betting operators. Sportingbet management have taken over at Centrebet with mass redundancies being made.

And in the States, they're still bumbling around trying to get sports betting legalised. I reckon I'll have grandkids first....


Sorry about the quiet period folks, have been off on paternity leave :)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

corrupt Italian football execs and officials heading to jail

Glad to see Italian courts have the laws to send corrupt sports official to jail. The people behind the Calciopoli scandal have been handed harsh sentences, hopefully sending a strong precedent in Italian football. This might be the biggest scandal they've had, but it's really the tip of the iceberg. Other incidents are often individual favours between clubs rather than being coordinated by an external syndicate. Note in this case, and nearly all the suspicious Italian matches, it's not about match-fixing for betting, but to win titles or avoid relegation.

Moggi gets 5 years in fix scandal

Former Juventus executive Luciano Moggi was sentenced to five years and four months in prison by a Naples court Tuesday for his role in the 2006 Italian match-fixing scandal.

Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of five years and eight months for Moggi on charges of criminal association aimed at committing sports fraud.

Another former Juventus executive, Antonio Giraudo, already received a three-year sentence and has appealed.

The scandal - the biggest corruption case in the history of Italian football - left Juventus stripped of the 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B by a sports court.

Three other top clubs - AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina - were also penalised, as were Reggina and Arezzo.

Also, former referee selector Paolo Bergamo was sentenced to three years and eight months and colleague Pierluigi Pairetto was handed a 16-month sentence, according to the ANSA news agency.

Fiorentina owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle and Lazio president Claudio Lotito received 15-month sentences for lesser charges.



It's time other countries ensured they have the laws in place to deal with sports corruption. Nations that bury their heads in the sand and insist 'it won't happen here' are prime candidates for endemic corruption.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Betfair new CEO expected to be announced on Monday

Sky News broke the story on Saturday night that Paddy Power Chief Operating Officer Breon Corcoran will replace David Yu as Betfair CEO. The outgoing CEO David Yu announced earlier in the year that he wouldn't be seeking an extension of his contract from October 2012, and would even be prepared to leave earlier should a replacement be found. The official announcement to the stock exchange is expected on Monday morning, it will be interesting to see how it responds. When you compare the rapid growth of Paddy Power in recent years, and the dismal share price of Betfair since the float, you would think the market will react positively. All I know is, the new guy will have a lot of work to do to restore the confidence of the punters that got them to where they are today, and the financial market...

Betfair poaches Paddy Power exec for CEO - report

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Online betting group Betfair will announce the appointment of Paddy Power's Breon Corcoran as its new chief executive this week according to media reports.

Corcoran, who is chief operating officer at the Irish bookmaker, will succeed David Yu and end Betfair's five-month search for a replacement.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

chalk up one for the good guys

News today that the spot-fixing corruption case in London has returned guilty verdicts on the first charges against Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt and leading pace bowler Mohammed Asif. Butt has been found guilty of accepting money for corruption, and both players found guilty of conspiracy to cheat. (Asif's charge of accepting money for corruption is still to reach a verdict). The third player in the trial, Mohammed Amir, is believed to have pleaded guilty in advance. This is a great step forward in the fight against corruption in all sports, not just cricket. It shows convictions can be secured, but it also shows just how difficult they are to achieve.

Lots of finger-pointing at the ICC and their anti-corruption unit today for their poor performance. After all, it was journalists from the now-defunct News of the World tabloid paper that captured all the evidence and then handed a gift-wrapped file to British police. The ICC are caught between a rock and a hard place here. You cannot have a sport's ruling body sending its own people in undercover to do the dirty work - imagine the cries of bias, hidden agendas, racism and anything else if certain players or countries were targetted. The press and the legal system would have a field day. And therein lies the problem. Without concrete evidence, a legal case against crooked players will never hold water. Unless the crime takes place within the jurisdiction of a country which specifically has strict laws regarding corruption in sport, then the investigation is up shit creek before it even starts. Few countries have such laws - it's only new in the UK.

Consider tennis and the infamous Davydenko match a few years ago now in Sopot, Poland. A player using a Russian telephone (access required to get list of phone calls etc) in a country without significant penalties against sporting/betting fraud with the crime allegedly being against customers of UK betting companies, and potentially ten spectators. It's all hearsay and circumstantial evidence unless there is indisputable evidence. Rarely will a player confess to it unless they know the game is up. The Tennis Integrity Unit has penalised a couple of players this year themselves, but will have to defend themselves in a sporting court as well. It's notable that the two players named were low-ranked and known troublemakers - certainly in the Koellerer case, everyone bar the player himself has said 'good riddance' to him.

So how can sporting authorities gather the evidence they need without crossing the line? Without cooperation from local police and Interpol, it becomes incredibly difficult. Is there a case for sporting authorities to unite and hire a specialist investigation unit, created at arm's length from each sport's rulers?

It's easy to jump to conclusions and think this is the beginning of cleaning up all sporting corruption. But we are a long, long way from that. Are we going to see players avoid touring England because it's the only country with laws capable of catching and penalising match/spot-fixers? And will they conveniently use the tax excuse that discourages the likes of Usain Bolt and Rafael Nadal from competing in all bar the premier events?

The ICC have to find a way to back these convictions up with heavy presence at matches. Is the Indian-controlled ICC prepared to admit that the IPL has probably been tainted as well and have henchmen looking over the players everywhere they go? I very much doubt it...