Posts in November

The Future of Sport…
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The Future of Sport…

I spent the bulk of last week in the surprisingly pleasant surrounds of Melbourne at the SMAANZ conference on the future of sport and sport management. I can hear you saying now… blooming conferences just an excuse for getting away from work and having a big drink, well that’s as maybe but it was also a great opportunity to see other opinions as to where sport is now and where it’s going. That it was run at the MCG – a perfect example of the new paying due respect to its past – was also very apt. So here’s a distillation for us to discuss…

Professional sport will become more accessible: ok you and I may like nothing more than collapsing into the cosy confines of the coach watching cricket or darts but the way we consume will change. More and more we will access sport through the internet rather than the arial or dish on the roof with a result that we can watch it any time, any place, anywhere, anytime – on the beach, in the bath, on a bike and yes, even in the lounge room (although probably on a tablet rather than a tv).

Sport will become more interactive: with the internet, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else a geeky, spotty 12 year old invents sometime soon we will engage more with our sport, our teams and the athletes. This will be two way.

Sport does well at doffing its hat to history through people and places – we will see such traditions maintained and enhanced. There may be some tinkering in rules and regulations but this will be mere frippery and essentially the core of our codes will remain intact.

The role of sport and physical recreation in society will be enhanced with the value of elite sport remaining important but the value of grass roots and participatory sport growing exponentially. It ain’t rocket science to think that lifelong indulgence in judo or juggling, basketball or bowls, walking or wantok will decrease people’s reliance on the health system. Government’s will increasingly recognise and reward through increased budgets and decent tax breaks.

The importance of volunteers, well recognised at Sydney 2000 will continue to climb.  Along with participation, deep involvement in sport volunteerism will become the norm.

See you out there…

This article first appeared in the Northern Star on November 28th

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Blatter Matters…

There is no other way to say this. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is an embarrassment to a proud sport and must go now. If he doesn’t resign he should be summarily dismissed although given FIFA’s convoluted governance structure and Blatter’s arrogant cussedness it may not be quite as simple as that. He has inhabited a parallel universe (somewhere between planet headinthesand and planet outoftouch) but his latest pronouncements show that Blatter possesses not one iota of the skills required to lead the world’s biggest sport. It’s not as if his ‘shake and make up’ comments on racism were a first offence, indeed in isolation these would not be a shooting offence. But there is a litany of abject and risable mismanagement associated with Blatter’s reign. He has managed to offend, ridicule and generally demean nearly every demographic involved in the sport. Way back in 2004 he suggested the fastest growing group should take a leaf out of beach volleyball’s book and legislate that women wear skimpy outfits and more make up presumably in the short time they were released from the confines of the kitchen and the bedroom? In the lead up to the ‘momentous’ decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, rather than take up the cudgels for gay rights in a country where homosexuality is outlawed he obsequiously tugged his forelock and decided it would be better for all if they merely refrained from practising sex during the tournament.  Global claims of match fixing have been passed off as isolated incidents and a 19th century attitude to technology are further indictments on a tenure characterised by a total lack of leadership. Throughout this tenure FIFA has been beset by governance problems culminating in the woeful and weird 2022 finale. And now this! Sport has the power to change things for the better and there are a myriad of examples where this happens. Football has achieved more than its fair share but for all its’ pre-eminence and potential it is at the very pinnacle where it founders and flounders. No doubt about it, Blatter is a dinosaur that should have been made extinct many years ago.

This article first appeared in the Northern Star on November 21st

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And the winner is…

Although reports that the Gold Coast was partying harder than a decade of Schoolies combined were a little exaggerated, the announcement of Australia’s latest mega event coup was all good. Sure it will cost a bit but with the majority of the coffer-shrinking venues already built the focus will quite rightly be on the legacy of the Commonwealth Games. London is wrestling with this as we speak with eye watering cost overruns for construction, wholesale ticketing hassles and even the route for torch relay route causing consternation in the GFC ravaged nation. So what will be the long term, sustainable effects of bringing some 10 000 athletes and officials as well as a mooted 60 000 interstate and 60 000 international visitors to Australia’s largest regional city be? Will the Gold Coast miraculously become healthier, will social problems disappear overnight and will white shoes be outlawed if only for a precious few days? And how does our very own region make the most of it when the focus and money will be north of the Tweed? The first thing we should do is not fight among ourselves – there is opportunity for all. We need a ‘whole of region’, objective driven strategy. Do we want to become a rich source of trained and enthusiastic volunteers, an athlete hub for acclimatisation and training or a tourism mecca for those who can only take so much of the bright lights? But perhaps the best thing we can do is encourage our kids, be they tiny or twenty to keep playing sport to the best of their ability.  Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson, who was part of the bid team felt it was they who would be the biggest winners: ”They now have a home Commonwealth Games to try to reach for. Some will get there and some won’t, but the one thing it will do is get everyone healthy and active. And it’s great for the community.” A grounded message for us all surely, so be it badminton or boxing, squash or swimming, the choice is ours. Anyone for lawn bowls?

This post first appeared in the Northern Star as Monday’s Expert on November 14th

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No hairsprays at the Ospreys…

As I lurch headlong through mid life I find myself forever tut tut tutting at the various unseemly shenaneghins of our sporting stars. Supremely talented they may be however they seem curiously at ease on the red carpets and catwalks and even the lycra, skin tight on field garb is designed to flatter. I guess that is why a story from the UK really piqued my interest this week? The south of Wales was once a pit scarred industrial heartland that spawned true rugby royalty – Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Merv the Swerve and JPR to name but a few. Over time industry changed as did sport. Mines were shut and the teams named previously after gritty towns and villages morphed into glamorous skim milk macchiato sipping enclaves named after mythical beasts, fish and birds. Alas so too did the dressing shed atmosphere – once the nostril assaulting pungency of deep heat so redolent of times past but now more likely to be the metrosexual coconut scent of Ambre Solaire.  Rugby union’s Ospreys were not immune indeed they possessed such a phalanx of stars that they were nicknamed the ‘Galacticos’ in deference to their far better renumerated round ball cousins, Real Madrid. That was before coach Sean Holley stepped up and drew the line. He banned fake tans and coloured boots.  Sensational! From now on his players will only be allowed to sport real tans (as if they are going to get them during a long, sun starved south Wales winter) with burnished and bronzed limbs from a spray can forbidden. And its back in black for footwear too with players only allowed to lace up garishly hued boots if they’ve played 50 or more games for the Ospreys or chalked up 15 national caps. One hopes he will go still further – no ink on players unless their heritage dictates, no shaving except of facial hair, guernseys (made of cotton/polyester mix with the sleeves hacked off since you ask) tucked in and socks pulled up and of course no moosey, fudgey hair products unless of course, its Brylcreem. Short back and sides anyone?

This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on November 7th

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