Des Kelly: Team GB"s Swimming chiefs taking flights but lack the fight

Team GB's Swimming chiefs taking flights but lack the fight



22:00 GMT, 21 September 2012

Every medal won by the British Swimming team at the London Olympics cost a grand total of 8.4million each.

That's a hell of a price to pay, particularly when none of those lavishly funded gongs proved to be gold. The silver won by Michael Jamieson, plus Rebecca Adlington's two bronzes, were a truly grim return from 25,144,600 of public investment.

An inquiry is now under way to establish the reasons for this spectacular bellyflop.

Poor: Michael Jamieson's silver was the best Team GB's swimmers returned with

Poor: Michael Jamieson's silver was the best Team GB's swimmers returned with

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The belated good news is that some gold has been discovered. The bad news is it is the colour of the Air Miles cards found inside the wallets of the men running the sport.

Did you know that Britain's swimming team are controlled by a chief executive living in Germany and a performance director based in Australia

It's true. CEO David Sparkes and coaching supremo Michael Scott pop in and out of the country from their overseas homes.

Scott makes around 10 to 16 return flights to Australia every year. Sparkes does likewise from mainland Europe. Since we can assume none of these trips is in economy, and business-class fares to Down Under tend to come in at the 8,000 mark, this is an expensive commute.

The pair's carbon footprints must be colossal, too. Maybe melting the polar icecaps is supposed to encourage more people to swim.

But besides being extraordinarily wasteful and impractical, it also sends out a strange message to the athletes. One complaint levelled at the Olympic team was that they did not possess the same level of desire as other sports.

British cycling collected 12 medals, including seven golds, for the same amount of investment. The rowers hauled in nine medals and four golds with comparable backing.

The swimmers sank with barely a trace. Although 23 competitors reached a final, only eight finished inside the first five places.

Most chattered away about how happy they were just to be there. But maybe they took their cue from the men at the top.

Rebecca Adlington won two bronze medals at the 2012 Games

Rebecca Adlington won two bronze medals at the 2012 Games


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Sparkes and Scott demand absolute commitment from their athletes and staff yet appear content to run the operation from many miles away via Skype and the telephone.

It can hardly be too much to expect them to live in the country that pays their wages. After missing its pre-Games target of five to seven medals, the sport's funding will inevitably be cut in the run-up to Brazil 2016.

The concern is that support staff at Loughborough will lose their jobs, a few scapegoats will be found here and there and the athletes will obviously feel the impact of the slashed budget.

'We most likely will have to be leaner and meaner,' said Scott. The 'we' in this case being everyone else.

The head coach of UK Athletics, Charles van Commenee, stepped down on principle because he fell narrowly short of his medal targets in London.

But Scott, with a new four-year contract in his pocket, said: 'My style isn't to walk away.'

Indeed not. When presented with the choice of fight or flight, he usually opts for a different sort of flight – business class.

Who can blame him Scott is a popular figure, a man held in some regard. Given the chance, why wouldn't he seize the offer to run the country's swimming from Australia

I'd do this column from the Bahamas every week if I could. Somebody at this inquest, however, might like to ask Sparkes why he has allowed this and whether he thinks the sport can ever achieve its maximum potential with absentee, fly-in bosses.

Sadly, a glance at the investigating panel does not encourage the idea that wholesale changes are about to take place. Performance director Scott is actually part of the review set up to examine his own 'performance'. It is a ridiculous conflict of interests. That's like asking Rebekah Brooks to conduct the Leveson Inquiry. Sparkes, meanwhile, declared no blame will be attached to the men at the top.

How convenient. But the inquiry needs to produce more than some vague proposals of how it might be better next time.

Important questions need to be answered, such as: l How much does Br i t ish Swimming spend on travel for its bosses

l How many days do Sparkes and Scott spend in the UK l What is the expenses budget for this publicly funded body and where does the cash go In a few weeks, the inquiry will release its findings. The nation will expect to see 25m worth of answers.

No hiding place for vicious minority


England fast bowler Jimmy Anderson recently insisted the ego-wielding batsman Kevin Pietersen was 'not unpopular' in the England dressing room.

Also in the news, former model, alcoholic and drug user, Paula Hamilton, claimed she crashed her car after 'swerving to avoid a baby deer in the road while she was driving around at 4am hunting for nettles'.

These two very different items belong together for one reason. I have placed them in the category euphemistically called 'dubious truth'.

The minority, it's always the minority. All it will take to ensure the 'football day of shame' headlines are dusted down on Monday is for a dozen or so drunks to behave like scumbags at a football ground.

One stupid chant, one ignorant song at Anfield and they will become the story ahead of the 45,000 people who acted with decency and respect.

That's the way it always happens and the numbers show how completely disproportionate this coverage can sometimes be.

Facebook is fast approaching a billion active users, yet if one idiot opens up a sick webpage celebrating the murder of two policewomen he becomes a national talking point.

Twitter's online boom has attracted 500 million subscribers, but when a racist sends Chelsea's John Mikel Obi an offensive tweet it becomes 'news'.

To put this into context, the knuckle-dragging troll represents 0.000000002 per cent of the known Twitterverse.

Yet this is still reported and so it should be. The day a story announces 'people behave reasonably' is when we really need to worry.

Thoughtless abuse: John Obi Mikel (right) has received racist tweets on Twitter

Thoughtless abuse: John Obi Mikel (right) has received racist tweets on Twitter


Roberto Mancini tetchily rounded on his own goalkeeper, Joe Hart, for daring to express disappointment at the manner of his side's late collapse at Real Madrid.

'I am the judge, not Hart,' snapped the Manchester City boss.

The tirade was designed to show he was in charge.

But the truth is, if Mancini felt entirely confident of his authority in the dressing room, he'd never have reacted like that.

The trolls and the members of any anti-social chorus should not be seen as representative of football's wider community.

But there is no ignoring them either. If anything, they were ignored for too long. The Hillsborough report suddenly brought the issue of fans' conduct back into the sharpest focus.

It cleared a generation of supporters from an unjust slur where they were cast as 'hooligans'.

At the same time, it also turned the spotlight back on to the despicable chants that have become commonplace in some grounds today.

We had almost forgotten to be offended. We were in danger of becoming desensitised to the sight of grown men standing with their arms outstretched in a pathetic airplane mime mocking the Munich air disaster.

We were turning half a deaf ear to Hillsborough chants, or ditties about Heysel, and the rest.

But if the media fuss and if the echoes of a tragic past, finally make this behaviour as socially unacceptable as racism, domestic violence, drink-driving and other notable changes in society's attitudes, it can only be a civilising boon for us all.

I'd actually be surprised if United fans acted inappropriately tomorrow. Only 2,000 have been allowed into Anfield and, even if a few wanted to embarrass themselves, it is difficult to do so without the cloak of anonymity.

A small minority could potentially mar Liverpool's match against Manchester United at Anfield

A small minority could potentially mar Liverpool's match against Manchester United at Anfield

People can be abominable for an hour or two when they hide in a crowd. After all, it's hard to riot on your own.

But all eyes will be on the audience. Everyone is under scrutiny. Making people accountable is the key. I've always wondered whether the simplest solution to road rage would be to make drivers' registration plates the same as their mobile numbers

And maybe every Twitter user should register with an ID Fortunately, the vast majority of people are fundamentally decent and generous.

It only takes the tiniest adjustment to alienate or silence the minority that look to disrupt or destroy any sense of a common society.

And every tradition begins with a change of habits and a broken precedent. Anfield might just provide that moment.

Should a group act in a reprehensible way it is easy to condemn them. But it might be better to view these people in the same manner we regard other creatures in nature, such as reptiles, for instance.

They do things that may seem inappropriate, but they are merely following behavioural patterns imbedded in them many years before.

If we are tolerant, if we seek to comprehend them, we can modify their behaviour and bring them more in line with the mainstream. I'm talking about the reptiles, of course.

There's no hope for the scumbags.

Roberto Mancini

The Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, believes his club are the 'Ferrari' of Premier League football.

an apt analogy, since the Italian supercar is reassuringly expensive,
noisy and sometimes temperamental. But what about the others: what car
epitomises your club

Manchester United – Rolls-Royce. The preferred choice of hard-up aristocracy living on loans. Now under foreign ownership.

Liverpool – MG. Produced their best work in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Chelsea – Pagani Zonda. Impressive if vulgar display of new money. Little heritage.

Arsenal – Alfa Romeo. Fancy continental styling. Often breaks down before final destination.

Everton – Electric car. Runs quietly on a shoestring without fuss.

Stoke City – Land Rover Defender. Basic. Agricultural and a handful at corners.

QPR – Kit Car. Just sling any random old bits and pieces on a chassis and see if it works.

You'll have your own suggestions, no doubt.