Tuesday, 27 December 2011

India out of Touch and Shape on DRS

The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) was first trialled in the Sri Lanka/India test match series of 2008. Outraged by a number of decisions going against their hero, Rahul Dravid, the Indians have subsequently sought to prevent the use of the system by claiming that it is unreliable. They  believe that the system threatens to create a disadvantage for their 'galactico batsmen'. Since the introduction of the system, it has been statistically proven that umpiring decisions have increased in accuracy. Spin bowlers have been  major beneficiaries of the availability of the technology. The system has shown that many more deliveries would have struck the wickets than had previously been supposed. Umpires have demonstrably been influenced to the extent that the number of successful LBW appeals has dramatically increased. Indian batsmen traditionally counted on the reluctance of umpires to give such decisions and almost routinely defended with their bat behind their pad with insouciance. Suddenly this tactic was no longer working. Batsman were being forced to play at more deliveries with the attendant risks of edges and errors. Is it coincidence that India has sought to block the use of the system in their test matches. UDRS can only be used, at present, with the consent of both teams and accordingly test series involving India are currently UDRS free. The International Cricket Council might be expected to challenge this position in the near future, but the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) is a powerful and implacable opponent on this issue. Watch this space, but don't hold your breath.

UDRS works at present at the instigation of the players. Each team is permitted to challenge umpiring decisions incorrectly on 2 occasions per innings. Within a 'short period' of the umpire's original decision the captain of the 'aggrieved side', or the batsman, must indicate a challenge to the decision. This short delay is intended to prevent the potential challenger from having the benefit of a signal from the dressing room from somebody who has had the opportunity to view a replay. Challenges are referred to a 3rd Umpire who has access to a number of technological aids. These include 'Hawkeye' or variants of it, 'Hotspot' and sound microphones situated within or adjacent to the stumps. Hawkeye predicts the path of the delivery (for LBWs) and can detect edges and show deviations. Hotspot is a thermal imaging device which isolates the point of contact. None are perfect. The 'snickometer' device cannot be used because it requires some 7 minutes to achieve an accurate result (an unacceptable delay to the flow of the game). This can of itself cause controversy when its results subsequently become known, are broadcast to the crowd and occasionally undermine the 'reviewed decision'. The original decision can only be changed when the 3rd umpire has a 'high degree of confidence' that the original decision is incorrect.

Aussie legend Ian Chappell has recently called for a change to UDRS. He wants to remove the right to challenge from the players and return authority to the umpires. The umpires would seek a review whenever they were in any doubt as to the correct decision. This is the system which is currently used for run outs. Umpires now routinely refer all but the most clear cut decisions. This can be somewhat tedious, but is almost fail safe. The beauty of the 'Chappell Proposal' is that umpires would regain their moral authority on the field of play. The unedifying sight of players effectively openly challenging the umpire's decision would be removed. Equally the tactical use of challenges to exert pressure on the umpire or an opponent would disappear. Perhaps strangely a Chappell might be enhancing the 'spirit of the game' with his comments. Not something which has routinely happened in cricketing history.
It is certainly noticeable so far in the latest India v England series which began 2 days ago that the temperature with regard to umpiring decisions has very much dropped as a result of the lack of DRS and thus scrutiny of umpiring decisions, but also due to the ban by the BCCI on broadcasters showing the technology.
 Some food for thought.
UPDATE 17.12.12
As England bat out the last day of the series and remain in command and set for a 2 - 1 series victory, it has become embarrassingly obvious that the BCCI position is untenable. Indian cricket really needs to get a grip. Whilst it has been a riveting series, it has also been riddled with glaring umpiring mistakes the majority of which DRS would have  corrected. Umpires have also reverted to being more cautious about giving batsmen out LBW. The post DRS world is a much better place. Indian cricket seems to be stuck in another time and place. The team's fielding, lack of athleticism and dynamism due to a lack of fitness added to the impression of a nation grown too comfortable with its financial dominance of the game due to, inter alia, IPL. That tournament stands in counter point to this tired Indian cricket team. Meanwhile England took the rough with the smooth and dusted themselves down after the first test and were utterly professional and for 3 tests, a complete team. They also took several steps towards the future with the blooding of Compton and Root, both successful debutants on this tour.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


John Terry just about did his job against Tottenham this week, he gave away one goal and saved another. At the end of the game he stripped off his shirt and threw it to his adoring fans in the Away end. He sought to perpetuate the 'Terry Myth' of the unshakeable rock. Newspaper reports the following day described his performance as 'heroic'. What an insult to true heroes, our veterans, firemen, nurses to name a few. The unsung.What is so heroic about playing football? What would be heroic, at least within the tabloid definition, would be if Terry had the guts to resign from the England team and captaincy with immediate effect until he 'clears his name' in the criminal proceedings early next year. England could then go about its business and preparation for Euro 2012 without the 'Terry Circus'. Meanwhile the FA wrings its hands. Familiar territory.
Luis Suarez is found guilty of racist abuse following a lengthy and detailed hearing by an independent tribunal. Liverpool FC, one of the biggest and most famous clubs in the world, react by sending their players and manager into the warm up to their next game wearing t - shirts proclaiming their support for Suarez. The t - shirts might just as well have said 'Suarez is innocent'. What message does this send out save one that shows total disregard for the organs of football governance.
From time to time football brings out respect campaigns. These are usually utterly undermined by the actions of those within the game.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Taekwondo in a Spin

Taekwondo has forced its way into the headlines over the past year with selection and technological issues.
With regard to the vexed subject of technology in sport,. this always arouses strong passions, particularly as technology equals change. Britain woke up to Taekwondo and passions became inflamed when during Beijing 2008 our Taekwondo star, Sarah Stevenson, landed a telling blow to the head, but it was 'missed' by the judges, initially depriving her of a semi final spot. Eventually justice was done by an appeal panel, but the initial subjective error raised alarm bells.
The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) has now addressed these concerns by introducing an electronic scoring system. Sensors are fitted to the athlete's body armour and socks. A number of systems had been tried and many previously found wanting. The 4 judge button pressing panel system has been consigned to history.
The new system requires competitors to make clean  contacts to automatically score points. Furthermore there is a video replay system which allows players to instantly challenge 'errors'. Athletes now score more heavily for head contacts and in particular for spinning kicks. This is designed to appeal to spectators. Kicks to the head apparently are more exciting. This is apparently a factor in the huge controversy now surrounding Team GB's selection for 2012.
I doubt if Taekwondo has ever previously enjoyed the level of media interest in this country which broke out in the build up to the Games. British Taekwondo nominated Lutalo Muhammad rather than Aaron Cook, current European Champion, in the Under 80kg category. Cook is ranked World Number 1. Muhammad is ranked 7, but in the under 87kg category which is not an Olympic event. Many prominent figures voiced their support for Cook. On the other hand Stevenson stated that World Rankings are irrelevant in Taekwondo.

Spinning Head Kick

The OQS Panel (Olympic Qualifying Standards) comprising, inter alia Team GB boss Andy Hunt and Clive Woodward ordered British Taekwondo to review the decision and to specifically reconsider certain criteria applied in the decision making process.
OQS's remit is to scrutinise the use of Host Nation Qualification Places, to ensure that agreed performance standards have been met and that the process of nominating athletes has been consistent with the agreed selection criteria and procedures, The OQS Panel can only accept or reject nominations, it does not have the remit to select individual athletes. 
In the background is the fact that Cook quit the GB Development Programme last year preferring to train alone and has seen a marked improvement in his performance. Cook has been in the European top 20 consistently whereas Muhammad has not. British Taekwondo seek to justify their decision partly by reference to perceived changes in the head kick marking system which they claim advantages Muhammad. However there is considerable disagreement as to whether the changes have any real effect. OQS is seeking clarification from the WTF.

Muhammad for his part has quietly kept his own counsel. It is known though that he has been the subject of abuse for 'depriving Cook of his rightful place'.
Meanwhile Sarah Stevenson is safely selected for her 4th Olympics.
Now I just have to get my head round the sport. Come on GB!
UPDATE 9.8.12
Britain's 19 year old Jade Jones nicknamed the 'Head Hunter' and coached by Sarah Stevenson, has won the 57kg category gold medal at the Games. She is the first former Youth Olympic Games gold medallist (Singapore 2010) to win senior gold. She fulfilled a prediction made by Dame Kelly Holmes some months ago. Aaron Cook was amongst the public cheering her on. Notwithstanding the controversies of selection in the lead up to the Games, Taekwondo is now hitting the public consciousness in a big way. Lutalo and Sarah are still to come with more potential medals on the line. #legacy.
UPDATE 10.8.12
Lutalo Muhammad wins bronze! Aaron Cook was not present.

Lutalo Bronze Medal
UPDATE 7.12.12
Snubbed by Team GB Aaron Cook has now decided to try his luck representing the Isle of Man, declaring that he will never work with 'them' again. Cook can represent IOM in European and world Championships and hopefully accumulate enough ranking points to qualify for the Olympics under a new system to be introduced by the governing body. Fighting for IOM allows Cook to retain the possibility of competing for Team GB at Rio 2016. Mark Cavendish is somebody who has previously followed this route. Good Luck Aaron you were wronged!! 
UPDATE 9.2.13
Cook's first competition in IOM colours is this week. A new beginning. For their part the BOA and UK Sport have vowed to compel governing bodies to draw up more transparent and objective selection criteria ahead of Rio 2016. Cook has been led to believe that the WTF will ensure that its world rankings will count for more in determining selection for the Games.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Perils of Promotion

The 2012 Olympic Sailing  medal races will take place at Weymouth Harbour. This will enable 4,600 spectators paying good money to watch the event, but many argue that the best sailing conditions are out at sea. Meanwhile the latest furore involving superstar Olympian Ben Ainslie perhaps highlights the increasing conflict between traditionalists and the marketing men trying to make sailing more attractive to television. At the World Championships in Perth, Australia Ainslie was disqualified by the International Jury after he was found guilty of gross misconduct. Ainslie took exception to the close attentions of a media boat which got so close that its wash impeded the 3 time Olympic gold medallist. Ainslie leapt into the sea and boarded the media boat and at the very least remonstrated with the crew. He later apologised for his uncharacteristic loss of cool, but it was too late. As Simon Barnes puts it 'Who runs sport - sport or television?'
Meanwhile there are similar disagreements rumbling through the snooker world. Barry Hearn, Chairman of World Snooker, and to some its saviour, has come under attack from Mark Allen, finalist this weekend at the UK Championships. Allen was unhappy that the second most important tournament of all had reduced matches from best of 17 frames to best of 11. He felt that this undervalued the tournament. Hearn counters that since his return to centre stage in the sport, the number of spectators, sponsorship and tournaments, as well as prize money, have all increased significantly. Both the fans and television want to be able to see a result within a session. Hearn says that the bottom line is giving his 3 customers, fans, sponsors and television what they want. Now even the World Championship may not be safe from innovation.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Deep Breath

North Korea's women's football team coach initially blamed his team's poor performance at the Women's World Cup 2010 in Germany upon the fanciful claim that a number of their players were struck by lighting. They finished 13th. At the first game 2 of their players tested positive for a banned performance enhancing substance steroid. Before the final group game further tests were carried out and 3 further players were caught in relation to the same substance. The Koreans now blamed an alternative remedy Chinese medicine - the extract of a gland from the musk deer for this further mishap. The Koreans were fined the equivalent of their prize money for the tournament and banned from the World Cup until 2015. Individual players received lengthy bans.
Nonetheless North Korea have qualified at the expense of Australia for London 2012. The key match took place just weeks after the ban was imposed upon North Korea in respect of the World Cup. How can this be? Apparently and according to FIFA this is because bans relating to teams only relate to the competition in which the infringements occurred. So the players are banned and miss the Olympics. The team does not. Australia has nowhere to appeal and WADA, who do, have chosen not to do so arguing that it is a matter for FIFA. This represents a nadir in the fight against drugs. One would hope for a noisy unwelcome for the Koreans in London, but given the restrictions on protest at the Olympics this is unlikely to discomfort them greatly. At least the coach was suspended for 6 years.

Political Protests at the Olympics

A recent interview with John Carlos long ago hero of the Civil Rights movement in America  made me wonder what might happen at next Summer's London 2012. At the last Olympics in Beijing in 2008 human rights activists urged athletes to demonstrate support for Tibet by forming a 'T' using both their hands.The Olympic torch relay was also marred by worldwide protest and by attempts to suppress it. 
There are strict rules about the use of political banners and flags within Olympic venues. Athletes are banned from any kind of 'demonstration or political, religious or racial propoganda'.
There is little that the authorities could do however about athletes making demonstrations outside of Olympic 'accredited areas'.A demonstration of the John Carlos kind on the medal podium itself would undoubtedly fall foul of the rules.
In 1968 at the height of the civil rights protests in the USA Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their defining protest in support of equal rights for black people in America. They became heroes to millions of their compatriots, but also hounded by the FBI. They were punished by the IOC with suspension from the American team and banishment from the Olympic Village.
They were effectively ostracised from mainstream athletics until 1984.
Have times changed? Not a great deal I suspect.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Rooney Rule

This is the subject that will not go away. Surprisingly for a Sports Law Blog, this is not another post about our pug faced sometime England star striker. With racism stories swirling around English Football and various summit meetings being promised to address the rifts and conflicts which appear to trouble the game, attention is increasingly focussing on the lack of 'ethnic' representation in the management of the game.


The lessons from the USA with regard to attempts to address similar problems in the NFL are increasingly being raised here.
The Rooney rule, which came into effect in the USA in 2003 was named after Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who advocated it . The rule was brought in by the National Football League (NFL) and was designed to proactively address the near total absence of ethnic minority coaches in the league. Until 2003 only 8 ethnic minority coaches had held senior positions.
 The rules requires ethnic minority coaches to be interviewed for vacant positions of Head Coach or for Senior positions within the operation of the team. Since the advent of the rule the percentage of ethnic minorities in such positions has risen from 6 to 22%. Affirmative action is nonetheless controversial and may well infringe equality laws in this country. There are nonetheless many things which could be done to address the current situation.
In England of the 92 fully professional clubs, only Chris Hughton (Norwich), Chris Powell (Charlton) and Keith Curle of Notts County (but sacked since I wrote this article) hold Head Coach or managerial positions (you can add in Edgar Davids from Holland who recently took over at Barnet).
Paul Ince has also got back in at Blackpool in the Championship.
In a surprise move last season Wolves sacked Mick McCarthy and replaced him with Terry Connor, his assistant. I say surprisingly, because although this might appear to show enlightenment on the part of a Premier League club, in fact Wolves trawled through a list of the 'usual suspects' all of whom rejected the opportunity, before looking within their own staff. Nonetheless the appointment was initially greeted by many with enthusiasm. It did however beg the question as to why Mick McCarthy was sacked if he is only to be replaced by his number two. Steve Morgan, chairman, proclaimed that Wolves had nothing to be embarrassed about. Fair enough, but if so why was he making that statement at all? We all know that this 'experiment' ended in tears with Wolves relegated and Connor sacked. This should not in any way reflect upon the issues here, Connor was simply not ready or perhaps suited to the particular role of manager and Wolves evidently were a club in crisis well before before he took the helm.

The Professional Footballer's Association is very much in favour of our own Rooney Rule, but the Premier League is resistant. Richard Scudamore, Head of the Premier League  stated last season that with only 20 managerial places available there is no place for quotas. He believes that a meritocracy will address the issue. The facts seem to disprove this. Paul Davis, former Arsenal midfielder, and now PFA representative, believes that the rule would encourage black candidates to step forward and enable them to have a chance. At present there is a merry go round with the same (white) faces being put forward for every job. When Steve Bruce was sacked last season at Sunderland , the club immediately identified Martin O'Neill as their desired replacement. He came from the pool of proven and safe talent. Whilst O'Neill may well have proved to be the best candidate in any event, the process itself acts against any fresh blood entering the fray. O'Neill more than demonstrated the wisdom of his appointment by leading Sunderland away from a relegation struggle and towards the upper reaches of the Premier League. The recycled merry go round however ultimately leads to a certain staleness and English football management no longer reflects its players and fans. 25% of players are now from ethnic minorities. England is undoubtedly a successful multi cultural society. Steps should now be taken to bring this success and diversity of approach into the national sport.
With the controversies of recent months and multiple calls for dialogue, the latest by the Ferdinand brothers, now is the perfect time for decisive action. Lawyers however suggest that the Rooney Rule is incompatible with English Equality laws.

Time for Creative Thinking

Whilst quotas cannot be set for interviewing black or ethnic candidates, clubs and governing bodies can adopt measures to encourage the participation of groups of candidates who are (demonstrably here) under represented. Positive action is different from positive discrimination. The EU has ruled that positive action is not unlawful unless it requires automatic and unconditional preference.
A wider pool of talent needs to be considered for managerial positions. This programme needs to start with existing players being encouraged and facilitated to participate in coaching programmes (take their UEFA badges)  and to be permitted to genuinely believe that their prospects are equal to those of others. 'Encouragement' can take many forms.
It is significant to note that Hughton, Powell, Curle and Connor have come through the PFA and LMA’s Certificate course for football managers at Warwick University (my thanks to Dr Sue Bridgewater). 
Although it does not get the recognition it deserves, the PFA and LMA are doing constructive things behind the scenes. The LMA has been an active member of the PFA’s Black Coaches Forum for nearly 10 years now. Black coaches or potential black coaches are encouraged and assisted to apply for positions with clubs. They are able to attend FA and PFA coaching and  management courses to facilitate this.  There is a  Black Coaches Forum which regularly gathers to pool its experiences and to promote the development of black coaches and to assist them to find management roles in professional football (thanks again to Dr Bridgewater, Warwick University, for the insight).
Clubs need to advertise and to specifically welcome applications from under represented areas, although of course the final decision has to be based upon objective criteria.
A very welcome development  is anticipated this week. Paul Elliott, ex Chelsea and Celtic amongst others, is set to become the first black Chairman of a Football League club at Charlton Athletic (they are now in the vanguard of this issue). Many black players/potential coaches have felt that the composition of the FA and boardrooms ('white, old and conservative') constitutes a bar to their advancement. This move can only be applauded as a first step in the right direction.
If black candidates believe they will be given opportunities they will participate.
Rio and other high profile figures please step forward.
At a recent debate http://gibbsbarrister.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/football-leadership-and-race-debate.html I was particularly struck by the pride with which black people spoke of the recent NFL game at Wembley where both Head Coaches were black.
UPDATE 17.3.13
Brian Deane (ex Leeds and Sheffield Utd striker amongst others) has annmounced that he is leaving English football and trying his luck in Norway with Sarpsborg. He is reported as saying 'It's a closed shop in England. No one is willing to embrace new ideas or give new people a chance. I'm not the kind of person to get a job off my reputation as a player'.
What position have we reached where a well respected English professional feels he will be better off and find a more receptive audience abroad than at home?

Friday, 2 December 2011

What the Hell is a 'Fit and Proper Person'?

Football has never exactly been a shining example of good governance when it comes to the running of clubs (FA Governance is for another day!). The past is littered with examples of 'blatant crooks' or 'either robbing clubs blind or mismanaging them to the point of disintegration (administration and points deductions . For a good example just take a look at Darlington FC's folly of a football stadium opened in 2003 - a 25,000 seater stadium although capacity now reduced to 10,000 due planning regulations - average home gate less than 2,000. Then owner George Reynolds was arrested for money laundering and went bankrupt.
Although we will shortly arrive at  2012  these past few days I have been confronted with 2 staggering news stories on this same subject. Firstly poor old Portsmouth FC. If ever a club was caught on the ups and down of a rollercoaster its Pompey. And right now they are on the most vertical of downward descents. Their owner and chairman, Alexander Antonov, 'a russian banker' is the subject of a European arrest warrant amid allegations of fraud and multi million pound asset stripping. He would not be allowed to operate a bank here, but he can own and run a football club. Meanwhile Craig White,  Chairman of Glasgow Rangers, admitted this week that he had previously been disqualified  from acting as a company director for 7 years and that this ban only ended in 2007. One of the Scottish Football Association's criteria in assessing whether an individual passes their 'fit and proper person' test for owners and directors is whether they have been subject to such a disqualification during the past 5 years. How difficult would it have been to ascertain that White had been so disqualified and yet the SFA claim that they were unaware of this matter and had not been informed appropriately. It is evident that the authorities either lack the will or the means to conduct any true scrutiny of such individuals and that the FAPPT as it is sometimes known is little more than window dressing. What would the SFA's stance have been if they had been aware of White's past? It is hardly surprising that the Government has begun to involve itself in these matters and to call for fundamental changes in the way that football governs itself. The Department for Culture Media and Sport has responded to a Select Committee report into the governance of football by requiring proposals for reform from the football authorities by February 2012.
You might ask yourself how on earth some of these 'characters' were ever able to take control of football clubs in the first place??? Obviously there are rules and regulations which are designed to prevent this kind of fiasco. The FAPPT is described as a set of objective criteria, and yet it is interpreted and operated in a manner which seeks essentially to avoid costly legal disputes. The authorities fear that tough interpretation of the rules will lead to endless costly legal disputes with individuals who are refused permission to involve themselves in clubs and that consequently there will be an enormous drain on resources.
Football clubs are community assets cherished by their supporters. They are embedded in the fabric and history of their location. The fans of both Portsmouth and Rangers see their clubs teetering on the verge of administration and even, in Pompey's case, potential extinction. Will it take a few high profile casualties before football acts, or before the government forces them to do so? Of course the losers are, as always, the supporters.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lest We Forget

When I was a boy in the 1970s he was a genial middle order England batsman and sometime bowler with an interesting name. I had no idea of his wider significance. Yesterday Basil D'Oliveira, universally known as 'Dolly' passed away at the age of 80. He was born in South Africa and because of apartheid and his 'coloured status' he could not play there. Friends made a collection to pay his fare to England and he settled here in 1960, became a British citizen and eventually played for England (44 tests batting average over 40 and 47 test wickets). At this time England continued to play test matches against South Africa notwithstanding the racist Afrikaner Nationalist Party regime in power there. In 1968 England were due to tour South Africa in the Winter. Dolly's place was far from secure until the final test of the Summer against Australia. This was purely a result of political considerations and not a question of ability. At the Oval in the final test of the Summer against Australia Dolly scored 158. Surely now his place was inked in for the Winter. For reasons shrouded in controversy the MCC omitted Dolly from the original touring line up. However once one of that squad (Tom Cartwright) withdrew injured Dolly was called up in his stead. All hell broke loose. The South African Government objected to the inclusion of a non white and demanded that he be withdrawn. Whatever the original reason for his exclusion the MCC now held firm and refused to withdraw Dolly. 8 days later the tour was cancelled. Only once Nelson Mandela had been released and subsequently elected President did South Africa truly rejoin the International fold 25 years later.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Day of Reckoning

At the Tour de France 2011 3 time winner Alberto Contador finished 5th more than 4 minutes behind winner Cadel Evans. To some he seemed to lack something from previous years. The aura of invincibility had vanished. Was it simple form, the debilitating effects of his legal travails or something more sinister. Starting on Monday 21st November at Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and over the following 3 days we may finally have an answer as to why. At TdF 2010 which Contador won, the Spaniard failed a drug test. He tested positive for minute traces of clenbuterol. As is the way with these things he immediately protested his innocence. In his case he relied upon what seemed initially to the casual observer to be an unlikely defence. He claimed that he had ingested 'contaminated meat'. Nonetheless at his hearing before the Spanish Cycling Federation Contador was successful. No fault apparently lay at his door. Unsurprisingly the UCI and WADA are appealing this decision to CAS.
In a separate, but arguably connected development, a significant number of under 17 footballers at a major event in Mexico tested positive for clenbuterol. It was eventually accepted that there is a significant problem with clenbuterol contamination of cattle in Mexico due to unscrupulous farming practices. However the instance of clenbuterol contamination in Europe is virtually zero. Contador may have to show that his 'meat' originated in South America. There have been extensive preparatory tests and discussions and the hearing has been postponed for a significant period of time. Contador planned to call the butcher who allegedly provided the 'contaminated meat' and a lie detector expert.
Another interesting facet of this case is that during the analysis of Contador's samples, it was established that his samples contained a higher than normal level of plasticizers. It is suggested that the 'plastic' derives from the bags used for illegal blood transfusions and that the Clenbuterol may have entered his system in this way. Precisely what part this will play before CAS remains to be seen.
Undoubtedly the legacy and future of Contador is at stake. Should he lose he will  be stripped of his 2010 title and face a lengthy suspension. He will be utterly discredited. The question of Contador's 2011 'missing 10%' may be resolved.

Enough is Enough

Today is the end of football as we know it. We have arrived at the day when all sane people can no longer tolerate the endless and mindless side of the Beautiful Game. Today is the day when we must stand up and be counted. Today is the day when the abused must speak up. No good complaining in generalities about racist abuse. You heard it tell who said it. 22 'men' are not deaf. Today is the day when the proper fans must shop the foul mouthed yobs. Ask the 4 letter father to leave the Family Enclosure. Today is the day when the abuse is kicked out of the ground and off the pitch. Today is the day when the FA will really call for the resignation of Sepp Blatter and not take no for an answer. When the rest of the world will start to catch up. We were world leaders once. Surely the greatest league in the world can take a lead. Today is the day when Gordon Taylor will climb off that fence and speak up for what is right rather than being an apologist for much that is bad. Today is the day when abuse of referees will cease be it from players, managers, fans or the media, before, during and after games. Today is the day for responsibility to be taken and those pathetic excuses to stop. Time to man up.Today is the day to set an example. Today is the day for sponsors to associate with what is good and not what is profitable. By all means shake hands, but mean it. Today is the day to celebrate the good guy, the unsung hero. The player who gives something back. Stop the lies and the posturing. UEFA and FIFA meaningful fines for racist abuse please or do not bother and hand over the reins. Time for everybody to look inside their own shirts. Enough already

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Poppy Own Goal

The latest positive trend in football and other walks of life is to show solidarity with the Poppy Day Appeal to mark the anniversary of Armistice Day 1918 by displaying poppies on team strips etc eg as sported by Newcastle and Arsenal, inter alia, on their shirts today. Unbelievably this has been undermined by a crass edict from FIFA banning the England team from sporting the poppy on their national shirts in their match next week. Instead England will only be allowed to wear the poppy on their training kit. There will however be a minute's silence before the game.
FIFA does not allow the display of religious, political or commercial symbols/emblems on national kits. A spokesman said that this rule is observed across its 208 member nations. One could comment on the rampant commercialism of FIFA and its 'partners' and the playing of national anthems at matches ...
At a time when FIFA has just faced 'the worst 100 days in its 100 year history' according to its President, Sepp Blatter, and is beset with corruption allegations, some proved, maybe a little flexibility would have helped its tainted image. After all, an appeal aimed at easing the suffering of those maimed in war is hardly controversial.
The FA are being urged by some to ignore the ban and effectively make FIFA dare to punish them. The FA wont. FIFA would not have.

You Know Who You Are

The football authorities are tying themselves up in knots over the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand affair. They are bogged down with the Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez affair. The Police are allegedly investigating the circumstances surrounding John Terry. Meanwhile the question exercising many, or at least much of the media, is whether Fabio Capello should pick Terry for the forthcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden given the allegations. Should somebody accused of oafish racist abuse represent his country, and particularly as captain? Perhaps the question should be whether Terry should be in the squad anyway given recent lacklustre and error strewn performances. Alternatively the question might be whether Terry should ever have been England captain given the numerous previous occasions when his behaviour has not brought credit upon the national game? Or alternatively should he have regained the captaincy having been stripped of it by Capello before the 2010 World Cup following the scandal of his extra marital affair?
But if the question is whether a player, accused of something for which he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, should be punished in advance by the sanction of being excluded from the England squad, then the answer must be a resounding 'no'. There is an investigation. The Police/authorities should get a move on, but nonetheless until that process has ended and a verdict has been pronounced, whether by a court or an FA tribunal, then Terry should be free to go about his business until that time.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mud Slinging

Patrice Evra (Man Utd and France defender) alleges that Liverpool's Luis Suarez racially abused him on numerous occasions during last Saturday's Liverpool v Man Utd Premier League clash which ended 1 - 1. Uruguayan Suarez denies the accusation stating on Twitter that he was 'upset' by the allegations. The FA  are investigating and will need to interview Evra first to establish precisely what he is alleging. If there is a case to answer, Suarez will then be interviewed. Referee Andre Marriner was made aware of the accusations, but did not hear any abuse himself. Evra suggested that TV cameras would have picked up what Suarez was saying, but thus far no such footage has been made available.
Evra has been involved in a number of previous allegations of racism. In April 2008 he was involved in an altercation with a Chelsea goundsman and it was alleged by United staff that he had been called 'a fucking immigrant'. An FA inquiry did not find this accusation to be substantiated due to inconsistencies in the witness accounts of those staff. Evra was also previously alleged to be the victim of racist abuse by then Liverpool player, Steve Finnan. Deaf TV viewers suggested that Finnan had used racist language to Evra, but again this was never substantiated and Evra himself did not pursue this.
Liverpool have suggested that Evra himself should be banned if these new allegations prove to be false.
There are no time limits on the FA inquiry, but both clubs will be hoping that this matter is swiftly dealt with to avoid an escalation of ill feeling at a moment when both clubs were trying to foster a more healthy atmosphere of mutual respect. Whether true or not, the unsavoury side of the game has dominated the headlines and diminished the sport.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

An Englishman Abroad

Wayne Rooney's latest show of petulance sets up the prospect of another international tournament dominated by the player's, at least initial, absence. Just when things seemed to be rosy for Team England, 1 - 2 ahead away in Montenegro and with automatic qualification seemingly in the bag for Euro 2012, for reasons known only to Rooney, he lashed out at an opponent who had the temerity to dispossess him legitimately. The inevitable and unarguable red card followed immediately from referee, Wolfgang Stark. Rooney went quietly.

Rooney's case will now be considered by the UEFA Disciplinary Committee tomorrow (13th October 2011). It is understood that both the English FA, in the shape of Manager Fabio Capello, and Rooney himself have made written submissions requesting leniency. Team England fear a 3 match ban which would rule Rooney out of all 3 tournament qualifying matches and even, arguably, put his inclusion in the tournament squad at risk. It would of course be a serious blow to Rooney, but also to the team. Rooney though only has himself to blame for this latest bout of unjustifiable violence. It is difficult to see what would justify a lenient approach from UEFA. This was petulant, unprovoked violence. As usual the English authorities are indulging this behaviour for short term gain rather than making an example of the player.

The Player Misconduct disciplinary regulations of UEFA (Article 10 sub paragraph (e)) state that the 'standard sanction' for assaulting another player at a match is a suspension for 3 competition matches. Sub paragraph (f) allows for a standard sanction suspension of 5 matches for 'serious assault'.

Rooney's action could not realistically be categorised as 'serious assault', but it certainly falls squarely within subsection (e) (standard sanction 3 matches). At the discretion of the disciplinary panel this sanction can be reduced or increased according to the individual circumstances of the case (Article 17 (2)) i.e. the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Through a combination of factors, Rooney's last 2 major tournaments have been disastrous affairs. In 2006 Rooney barely recovered from a broken metatarsal injury in time to participate in WC Germany2006. He was out of form and possibly fitness. Eventually his frustrations boiled over in an assault upon a Portuguese player during the quarter final. He received a straight red card. At WC South Africa 2010 Rooney fared little better. Entering the tournament again without form or true fitness due to injury, Rooney performed badly throughout and even delivered an on camera tirade to the fans.

Rooney can be a joy to behold as a player, but indiscipline risks tarnishing his reputation for all time. Time is short for Rooney to redeem himself.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Lifetime ban for UK Dopers?

Yesterday the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in the Lashawn Merritt case (IOC v USOC) decided that the IOC's rule making drug banned athletes ineligible from the following Olympic Games was 'invalid and unenforceable' as it was contrary to the IOC's own charter which incorporates the WADA Code. The ordinary maximum ban under the WADA Code is 2 years although in 'aggravating circumstances, such as the use of 2 anabolic steroids, the length can be extended to as much as 4 years. The IOC's policy had meant that in effect athletes faced sanctions of more than the ordinary maximum. Lashawn Merritt committed a doping offence and has just finished serving a 21 month ban. He is now eligible to run at next year's Olympics in London.
The CAS decision places the spotlight firmly back upon the British Olympic Association's Bylaw which bans those British Athletes convicted of doping offences from the Olympics for life. The legality of this Bylaw has never been fully tested in court (although Dwain Chambers did at one unsuccessfully seek to obtain an interim injunction in respect of the ban prior to the Beijing Olympics). The Bylaw was introduced in 1992 largely at the instigation of athletes themselves in order to protect clean athletes and to attempt to deter the ever increasing instance of doping in sport. The Bylaw has continued to enjoy overwhelming support amongst British athletes ever since, as demonstrated by athlete surveys after the last 4 Olympiad. The BOA has vowed to defend its policy.
The problem with the Bylaw is that it is unique to the British Olympic Squad. Other countries have not chosen to follow the same path and there is little prospect (especially now) that any will ever do so. Accordingly Lashawn Merritt will defend his Beijing gold medal in London, but David Millar and Dwain Chambers, inter alia, will not be allowed to compete. Thus far the likes of Millar and Chambers have not indicated whether they will now seek to appeal the Bylaw. Millar, in particular, has had a largely successful rehabilitation from his ban and is admired by many within the cycling community for his part in addressing the issues of the past and working towards a cleaner sport. Nonetheless he appears to fear a backlash if he attempts to challenge something which is so deeply supported. I suspect that he will sacrifice his own Olympic ambitions for the greater good and his continued respect within the sport.
There is a sense in which the BOA policy discriminates against British athletes vis a vis their international counterparts. It is argued by some that all athletes should be subject to one regime ie the WADA Code. If it is felt that the WADA sanctions are insufficient then it is that Code that should be changed for all rather than for an individual country to unilaterally make further sanctions. British athletes are currently subject to double jeopardy. They are subject to a sanction deemed commensurate with the offence, but are then given another sanction that others do not face. The BOA argue that it is for them to decide who is eligible and that there is a right of appeal. Of those appealing only 3 have failed in that appeal. However the whole process is messy and conflicting. Christine Ohuruogu succeeded in her appeal in spite of missing 3 drug tests because she had not actually been found to have taken drugs. The distinction is seemingly slight although the CAS finding in respect of Ohuruogu is interesting. They found her to be naive rather than cynically manipulating the testing system. Millar and Chambers were, of course, caught cynically cheating.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Tevez - striker? Hero to Zero.

Worn down by living in Manchester (albeit at £200k per week), unable to get the 'agitated for move' and now rendered surplus to requirements by countryman, Sergio Aguero, and fellow striker Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez cracked. He 'allegedly' refused to play for MCFC and admittedly 'refused to continue to warm up' as he admitted at the club's internal tribunal recently. City fans have reacted with outrage and moral indignation. Hardly surprising when one considers that some may have spent about £1000 travelling to Bayern Munich for the Champions League tie in question.
Manager Roberto Mancini swiftly vowed that Tevez would never appear in City colours again. Understandable sentiments perhaps, but a position which presents the club with some troublesome issues. It is not 100% certain that City could summarily dismiss Tevez for his act of disobedience. Some, perhaps surprisingly, argue that, though serious, his behaviour does not amount to gross misconduct. The facts of the matter are already proving difficult to establish. However failing to do your best for your club might justify summary dismissal and, assuming they could dismiss Tevez, City would then have the not inconsiderable problem of trying to recoup his transfer value from the player. Some years ago Chelsea achieved judgement against Adrianu Mutu, but never recouped the money from the player in an analogous situation, after he was sacked for using cocaine.
The options for City notwithstanding their immense wealth are not attractive. Simply fining Tevez would be meaningless. Standard maximum fines of 2 weeks wages would be a drop in the ocean to the player. In exceptional circumstances, fines representing much longer periods have occasionally been allowed as in the case of the sanction handed out to Lee Bowyer by Leeds Utd after his conviction for a racially aggravated affray. The sums nonetheless represent no kind of sanction at all to a Tevez. City must ensure that any penalties are just and proportionate and follow a fair and unbiased hearing and potentially appeal process.
City could let Tevez rot in the reserves. There are a number of unwanted side effects. The player's transfer value declines rapidly in a situation where the selling club cannot wait to be rid of the player. In addition Tevez could invoke Article 15 of Fifa's Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players. Tevez would become 'an established professional' who had appeared in less than 10% of the club's competitive games during the season. At that point Tevez might be able to legitimately terminate his contract for 'sporting just cause'. 
Keeping a dissident player within the ranks however is surely not an option. City will be looking for a face saving deal in the January transfer window. It should be remembered however that nobody expressed any concrete interest in the player this Summer just past, leaving Tevez and City wedded together in a loveless marriage.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What is a World Record?

Following the recent IAAF congress in Daegu, South Korea, it has been decided that world records achieved in mixed sex events ie mainly marathons, will not be recognised as World Records but only as World Bests. The rational for this is the 'unfair advantage' that is perceived to result from having 'male pacemakers' in the same event. The vast majority of major marathon events save for major championships such as the World and Olympic Games feature mixed events. There will inevitably be many misgivings amongst event organisers.
The most affected athlete is Britain's Paula Radcliffe. She currently holds the 'World Record' (2 hrs 15 mins and 25 seconds) for a mixed marathon from 2003. This would now become a 'World Best'. The World Record would then, ironically, be her 2005 effort of 2hrs 17 mins and 42 seconds.
Event organisers, including David Bedford (London Marathon) are to meet with the IAAF and make representations. In the mean time they will recognise both records as 'World Records'.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Role Model - Not

Serena Williams has just today(15/2/13)  reclaimed the World Number 1 slot. No doubt this is an accurate reflection of her standing in the Women's Game. However I cannot feel anything other than dismay. Any hopes, long since cherished, for a more upstanding comportment within tennis have taken a serious blow. Unfortunately the wishes expressed in the following short piece written in 2011 have not borne fruit. Williams has flourished as others have flattered to deceive.
The umpire officiating the Women's Singles Final at Flushing Meadows this weekend received something like $250 for her part in the proceedings. Who knows what Serena Williams earnt over the course of the last fortnight. Her official reward for being runner - up (losing) was $1.4m. In the event the overwhelming favourite was spectacularly thrashed by the unfancied, but much deserving winner, Sam Stosur, of Australia. Finally somebody took the fight to Serena and the American quite clearly could not handle it.
Worse, much worse, she showed it. In a demonstration of a total lack of star quality, Serena abused the umpire for having the temerity to make a call against her. It matters not whether the call was right. Serena told the umpire, inter alia, that she was 'unattractive inside'.

Poor Sport

 The tournament organisers, confirming their total lack of credibility fined her $2000 dollars for this display of petulance. Serena could not even bring herself to apologise post match. The Grand Slam Committee decided in their infinite wisdom that the abuse did not amount to a major offence. What a terrific role model!
Serena was already on probation at the US Open. 2 years ago, whilst also losing (coincidence?) in the semi final against Kim Clijsters, she made unpleasant threats to a female line judge. She was given a suspended sentence. Memories are clearly short.
It would be nice if the authorities for once chose to stand up for their own officials rather than the spoilt children they pander to. Serena will never be considered a great and memorable champion, certainly by this writer. Lets hope the likes of Stosur continue to expose the shortcomings in Serena's game as well.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Greek Tragedy/French Farce?

Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou have just been 'acquiited' by a Greek Court of faking a motorcycle accident to explain their failure to present themselves for drug testing just prior to the commencement of the 2004 Olympic Games in their own country. An appeal court ruled that there was no evidence that the 'accident had not happened'. The pair's suspended sentences of imprisonment were rescinded. Is that any vindication? Quite categorically no.
The pair had already missed 2 out of competition tests in 2004 before they failed to make themselves available for the eve of Games tests. They had managed to evade testers by the skin of their teeth and, some say, with the connivance of, or at least a blind eye turned, of their national association.
Much was at stake for the Greeks. Greece was one of the smallest countries, along with Finland in 1952, to have ever been awarded the Olympics. Prior to 2000 Greece had not had an Olympic Gold medallist on the track since the inaugural games in Athens in 1896.
Kenteris was a failed 400m runner. He became associated with Christos Tzekos a coach who himself had a checkered history. In 1997 he was banned for 2 years from acting as a coach after he had physically manhandled a drug testing official enabling a number of his athletesto be spirited away avoiding testing altogether. Within a relatively short period of working together Kenteris had gone from a complete nobody to the 1996 World Champion at 200m. The improvement in his performance was considered by many to be 'astonishing' and almost unprecedented. In 2000 Kenteris achieved national legend status by winning the Olympic gold at the Sydney Games. He broke the symbolic barrier of 20 seconds. It was one of the most surprising results of that Olympiad.
Thanou won the 100m silver medal in Sydney. She shared the same coach and was Kenteris' 'training partner'. Her result was equally surprising. Ironically she was beaten by Marion Jones, who later admitted doping, and was jailed for perjury. Thanou was never awarded the gold and bizarrely the IOC awarded the bronze medallist a joint silver with Thanou and upgraded 4th placed Merlene Ottey to bronze.
In 2002 suspicions were growing. Links  were uncovered between the infamous Balco Laboratory in the USA and 'Greek athletes'. The IAAF clearly suspected Kenteris and Thanou and began to target them. They managed to slip the net until the eve of their own Games.
In the event Kenteris and Thanou, in what can only be described as an ignominious departure, handed in their olympic accreditation, and withdrew from the Games, without appearing before the disciplinary tribunal. Their disgrace was complete. They never competed again. Their home Games was overshadowed.
Notwithstanding their latest pyrrhic victory, surely justice was done in 2004, although both athletes have managed to hang onto their Olympic medals from 2000. Nonetheless they now live in obscurity and are totally discredited, notwithstanding the protestations on their behalf of their lawyers.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Strike Out!

IAAF World Champs have been rocked by DQs for amongst others Usain Bolt, Dwain Chambers and Christine Ohuruogu. Bolt, the 'great saviour of athletics', fell foul of the one strike rule introduced in 2010, in the World 100 metre final. He seemed to realise immediately that he had contravened the rule, ripping off his vest and heading off the track. However was his error in fact precipitated by the 'twitch' of eventual winner and compatriot, Yohan Blake? Replays tended to suggest that Bolt might at least have had an argument about that, but he didnt wait to see those replays. Did the emotion of the moment deprive him of a protest? The rule empowers the starter to adjudicate. Any protest would have to be made immediately to the starter. Bolt chose not to do so.
The rule (162.7) which came into force on the 1st January 2010 has provoked controversy and this will now be inflamed by the loss of the biggest draw in athletics from the stellar final of the entire meeting. Will the IAAF keep its nerve and retain the rule? Will commercial forces provoke a rethink?
The rule was introduced in order to spice up and sharpen the 'product'. Previous events had been marred by repeated false starts and consequent delays. It was also suggested that gamesmanship played a part as 'slower starters' sought to put the field under pressure by causing an initial false start with the next false start causing immediate disqualification. Usain Bolt backed the original change of rule and is not suggesting any change now.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


GibbsBarrister launches new blog. An opportunity to discuss the latest sports law issues. Phil Gibbs is a barrister practising sports law in the Midlands.