Talking Sport with Neil Trainis
PUBLISHED: 14:43 21 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:12 02 July 2010
SPORT in the last decade has evolved into a fascinating phenomenon pot-marked by attempts of money-obsessed governing bodies at global domination to scandals of competitors trying to cheat their way to glory, but racism remains the ugliest of all the indu
SPORT in the last decade has evolved into a fascinating phenomenon pot-marked by attempts of money-obsessed governing bodies at global domination to scandals of competitors trying to cheat their way to glory, but racism remains the ugliest of all the industry's ills.
It exists independent of the howls of complaint from observers who decry the detrimental impact of money on their respective sport and the fact that it has, whether they like it or not, generated intrigue of the type that dominates the sports pages of newspapers.
How else can we explain why the Premier League's proposals to launch their game across cities all over the world has gripped the public and divided figures within the game as well as supporters?
Maybe the collapsed project will receive resuscitation but as much the dissenters try to laugh it off, they cannot deny it has sparked intense debate, not to mention some amusing public fencing between the two most powerful men in world football and arguably the most influential figure in the English game.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, in his desperation to bring about the realisation of the ambitious plans, has in recent days cut somebody more akin to a naughty schoolboy told several times to behave rather than someone who is part of the biggest league on the globe.
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, counterparts at Fifa and Uefa respectively, have appeared as overbearing parents attempting to bring a minor under their jurisdiction into line and the issue is sure to rumble on, with Scudamore promising not to give up on his utopian dream.
Debate has also already started to rumble on the Indian Premier League (IPL), a Twenty20 competition devised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which is sure to enrage and excite in equal measure.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) may be quaking at the thought of the tournament, when it begins on April 18, irrevocably altering the international cricket landscape and taking away some of its autonomy as the game's ruling body.
The lucrative nature of the IPL and its inevitable growth will ensure friction between it the ICC, not to mention the players who take part in the league and their Test teams.
Those who claim not to give one iota about the development of an event that could have far-reaching ramifications for international cricket may find it hard not to peek at news of the latest progress of the venture.
Cynics will suggest the motive which lies at the heart of the ambitions of the Premier League and the BCCI is pure, naked greed and a desire to increase capital rather than expand the profile of the sports in their countries and fund the enhancement of grass-roots programmes.
Whatever the reasoning, nothing can deny that the schemes, one which looks dead and the other which seems inevitable, have captured the imagination.
It would also be foolish for anyone with a healthy interest in sport to refute the suggestion that they have found boring the revelations surrounding the use of prohibited substances and the extent competitors will go to win.
Coverage of the media circus that trailed Marion Jones, the American sprinter forced to hand back the five medals she won at the 2000 Olympics having been found guilty of taking steroids and jailed for six months for perjury, reached these shores and engrossed many of us.
The BALCO doping scandal in which she was embroiled and which centred on the California laboratory owned by disgraced chemist Victor Conte, has already claimed the careers of high-profile figures in American football, track and field and baseball.
The testimony of Roger Clemens, former New York Yankee and one of the most celebrated pitchers in baseball history, contending in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States Congress allegations, that he took steroids was simply absorbing.
Let's not beat around the bush, the sight of Brian McNamee, one-time trainer of Clemens who claimed to have injected him with performance enhancing drugs, arguing with his ex-protégé about the cause of a mark on his backside was priceless.
Dwain Chambers' controversial return to athletics prompted fury among many within the sport as well as those on the outside who support it. It has held our attention.
Sport continues to captivate in all its forms but, as a part of a modern society that strives to achieve multi-culturalism, suffers from one of its oldest evils and we got another whiff of it on Tuesday.
It should have been another routine day at Chelsea's Cobham training ground but when a member of the club's staff opened a package that had been left at the address, everything that is fun, riveting and gripping about sport was, in an instant, flushed away.
The anti-semitic death threats that were aimed at Chelsea's Israeli manager Avram Grant and his wife Tzofit in a letter containing anti-Jewish insults in a package also containing a white powder, should sicken us not surprise us or raise any eyebrows.
Sport has moved on in many ways but it has still not rid itself of the prejudice and ignorance of the few who proclaim to be sports fans, such as those who blacked up and racially taunted Lewis Hamilton during a test drive at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Sport is a financially booming industry representing a far cry from the good old days when English football clubs were owned by English owners and Test matches and top-flight football games were available to everyone via terrestrial television and affordable for all.
Yet one characteristic occasionally raises its ugly head and drags sport back into the dark ages, a time when black footballers had bananas thrown at them and endured monkey chants.
We can't help but be drawn in by revelations of drugs cheats, no matter that we know it is wrong, or by foreign takeovers of our beloved football clubs, even though it may anger us, yet racism makes us want to turn and run a million miles, even though we shouldn't. It does not engross, it sickens.
Despite the dawn of huge television revenues and players in various disciplines earning million-pound contracts, Tuesday's events again made us consider a salient question: Has sport really moved on?