Never one to shy away from bringing you hard hitting stories, this week is no exception. FIFA as you know, are the governing body for the round ball game throughout the world. They have much to occupy themselves at the moment with football, like many sports beset by a range of problems. There are continuing investigations into illegal gambling around the game and the conduct of referees in certain international friendlies. They are yet to adopt relatively simple goal line technology that could make a discernable difference to the outcome of matches and their governance is continually questionned. So what do you think was the big announcement after the latest meeting of the International Football Association Board that decides on such matters? Well, ummm errr… they have banned snoods! What? Well, for those of you unused or unable to watch football overseas I’ll explain. Occasionally it gets a bit chilly in Europe and of course the players, unable to move under the gargantuan weight of their wallets or teeth a chattering far away from the cozy confines of their latest Ferrari feel the cold too. Whilst many coaches would send them to Bunnings to grab some cement, being footballers they look to the catwalks of Milan and Paris for a warm inner glow. They came up with snoods that are really nothing more than glorified scarves. Not the stripey, lengthy, knitted type favoured by skin headed supporters in the 70’s and 80’s but designer cut comforters, all soft and cuddly around pampered necks. The popularity of this accessory has increased exponentially and you can even purchase a replica of your chosen hero’s snood of choice at club merchandise outlets! Despite the last two or three years of safe snooding with not a single incident attributed this apparently life threatening neckwear, from July 1 they are outlawed. In confirming the ban FIFA supremo Sepp Blater opined that snoods are non-essential part of equipment and could prove dangerous. “You could risk hanging yourself”! Whilst we wouldn’t want that (would we?) it seems certain that FIFA may now turn their attention to other critical issues such as the wearing of ridiculous coloured boots, gloves of any ilk and the nefarious practice of pulling socks over knees. Comforting to have the game in good hands isn’t it!?
Sporting events are as Australian as Vegemite, the Hills Hoist, the Victa mower, kangaroos and Holden cars. We run them as well as anyone else, paramount among these of course, was the Sydney 2000 Olympics which the late IOC supremo Juan Antonio Samaranch declared to be the ‘best ever’. But could it be that as a nation we are inexorably falling out of love with them? The many proponents of events optimistically use economic impact as a battering ram into the minds of the public. Alas, all too often their inflated, rose-tinted estimates amount to empty promise and mouthed platitude. Once a given event is wrapped up, the sums are done and the impact is found to be far from what the estimates would have us believe. An Access Economics investigation indicates the true benefit of the FIFA World Cup coming to our shores would have been in the region of $1.79 billion mainly through visitor spending. The true cost, largely through the construction of stadia would have been a whopping $3.69 billion! The FFA maintained that the event would have given Australia a $5 billion plus boon to our gross domestic product! Perhaps we dodged a well-struck, vicious volley with our ignominious single vote then? In Melbourne, the F1 Grand Prix, stolen as it was from Adelaide has always attracted controversy but this invariably came from marginal, minority groups. Even dyed in the wool motor racing fans are now questioning the legitimacy of an event that costs the Victorian taxpayer around $70 million a year. Even on the Far North Coast Lismore City Council found itself in a financial mire when it hosted the ill fated Festival of Cricket which lost an eye watering $150 000 plus! Events garner significant benefits other than the much vaunted, poorly understood economic impact. These range from the physical to the cultural, and from social benefits to the environmental. At the highest echelons events showcase Australia as a place to do business, as a powerful player on the world stage. But in a democracy difficult questions must be asked and answers given. If this means an end to the use of economic impact as the sole justification for spending taxpayer dollars, events will be far the better for it!