If anyone can find a future for athletics, do tell me
01:43 GMT, 11 June 2012
Athletics Weekly is the world’s only magazine covering the sport with seven-day regularity. Its circulation Five thousand.
‘If it isn’t in AW, it hasn’t happened,’ commentator Alan Parry once said. He could now update that phrase: if it is in AW, it may as well not have.
The marketing and advertising department of AW say that 67 per cent of its readers are still athletic competitors and coaches, meaning that outside the sport, working off figures of 5,000, the world’s only specialist weekly athletics magazine commands the attention of 1,650 people that are not directly engaged in track and field.
Downbeat: Hurdle champion Lashinda Demus is not positive about the future of her sport
The circulation is down 80 per cent from 1981, the year Sebastian Coe broke the 1,000 metres world record at the Bislett Games in Oslo.
There have been 64 other world records broken at Bislett, which has existed in various forms since 1924. Last week, Usain Bolt ran the fastest 100m in the history of the meeting: 9.79 seconds. In Britain, you could watch his feat on BBC3.
You know BBC3. It’s where comedy goes to die and news comes in 60- second soundbites. Tonight’s fare includes Don’t Tell The Bride USA and Snog, Marry, Avoid The target audience is 16-34: age or IQ we cannot be sure.
Lashinda Demus, of the United States, the women’s world 400m hurdles champion, was asked about the state of athletics in the modern age. Her response was shocking in its honesty. ‘Every time we compete at a track and field meeting, we know we’re in a dying sport,’ she said.
‘People are making $15,000 a year and calling themselves professional athletes. To me that’s not a good job.
‘We don’t have anyone pulling in viewers and our races aren’t on TV like other sports. It’s just less and less. The Diamond League meets can be seen on who knows what channel. We’re in the back somewhere. They say the drug thing hurts it and I think that does affect it, but people get caught doing drugs in baseball and it doesn’t really hurt them that much. More media time would help, more sponsors would help.’
Could this man be the saviour of the sport Usain Bolt celebrates winning the 100m
As for broadcast profile, Demus thinks athletics meetings go on too long, but that does not explain why sports such as cricket, baseball and NFL are feted by television companies, or why the build-up and inquest around football and rugby matches now lasts longer than the game. If anything, athletics is a sport that is made for television. At the event, it is often hard to see field activities, which frequently take place at the same time as track races.
On television, the schedule of the different disciplines can be staggered, and viewed close up. Nobody has to choose between the high jump and the 800m, or strain to see the discus being thrown. There is absolutely no reason why major athletics meetings should be shunned.
The truth is athletics has been complacent for too long. Every drugs bust is a shock to its cosy cartel, the opportunism around issues of nationality is airily dismissed when it clearly concerns the public. The false-start shambles at the World Championships in South Korea was another turn-off.
The Olympics will present a false impression of the standing of the sport and for this reason right now those at the helm of it are feeling very important. Yet the Bislett Games and the fastest man that ever lived are jostling for airtime on the television station that is more comfortable showing Britain Unzipped.
Make the most of August everybody. Winter’s coming.
Former managers show solidarity for Hodgson
So far, we have heard from a number of former England managers on the John Terry-Rio Ferdinand conundrum and, to a man, they have supported Roy Hodgson’s decision. Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson have declared for Terry, and we can fairly much presume the views of Fabio Capello too. So, for such a controversial decision, that is 12 years of England bosses who would have made the same call.
Comments from Harry Redknapp, Hodgson’s rival for the job, suggest arrival at a similar conclusion. It is now said that Hodgson should have sat down with both players face to face before making a decision — yet there was little time for that, given the Football Association’s chosen timescale.
Backing: A number former England managers have backed Roy Hodgson over the John Terry-Rio Ferdinand debate
Parachuting a manager in was always going to be fraught with difficulty, but one window of opportunity was undoubtedly missed. On May 9, having been appointed manager of England but still in charge of West Bromwich Albion, Hodgson visited the St George’s Park complex at Burton-on- Trent. What was the point of that He has all summer to inspect where England will train next season. That day at Burton would have been the time, and perhaps even the location, to invite Terry and Ferdinand for a late afternoon summit. Hodgson missed a trick — but, given the hectic nature of his schedule, is that really surprising
Misguided: Daniel Pacheco
Pacheco was insensitive with his remarks
Nobody can now be unaware of the layered meanings of the word negrito as a form of address in Rioplatense or Spanish dialect. Sometimes it is harmless, even genial, on other occasions quite sinister. When Liverpool forward Daniel Pacheco tweeted the message ‘Good luck Negrito’ to his team-mate Glen Johnson prior to Johnson’s departure for the European Championship, he clearly meant it in the friendliest terms. No doubt Johnson took it that way, too.
Yet, unless he is spectacularly unaware of his surroundings, Pacheco must have known how much trouble the alleged use of that word, or one like it, by Luis Suarez to Patrice Evra has caused his club this season.
So, whatever his subsequent justifications, it was either a deeply insensitive action or a purely mischievous one. And, if anyone at Liverpool still thinks the Suarez affair is suitable fodder for a bit of mischief, they really have not learned a thing.
Percentages don’t add up in favour of Barton — fact
Joey Barton still does not get it. ‘On ability I walk into the squad, on behaviour I don’t — fact,’ he tweeted in a spiteful little commentary on Jordan Henderson’s selection for England.
Yet a part of ability concerns behaviour. If there are two players of identical talent and one keeps getting sent off and the other does not, the one who stays on the pitch has the most ability. What ability does Barton think he possesses for Queens Park Rangers in their first 12 games next season when he is banned
The stats don't add up: Joey Barton is not as good as Jordan Henderson – according to the stats
An available Henderson has more usable ability in his little toe than the genius Lionel Messi if Messi is sitting in the stand. Anyway, Barton’s view of his contribution in central midfield is aggrandised, to say the least. He had a good spell at Newcastle United because Alan Pardew played him on the right and he can put in a reasonable cross. His form following the switch back to central midfield with Rangers, however, was poor.
Indeed, if he wishes to deal in facts, here’s a few from Opta that might be of interest. Pass completion rate last season: Barton (QPR): 75.2 per cent, Henderson (Liverpool) 83.9 per cent. Pass completion rate in opposition half: Barton 66 per cent, Henderson 79.3 per cent. So it’s not just behaviour that keeps Barton out of the England team; indeed, arguably, that’s the least of it.
All change: The new Cardiff red kit
Bluebirds aren't singing
Red is a lucky colour in Asia, yet Chelsea’s share of the market there continues to increase. In 2011, south-east Asia accounted for upwards of 350,000 hits on the club website and the main shirt sponsor is Samsung. Despite this popularity, they wear blue.
So quite why the Malaysian owners of Cardiff City — nickname the Bluebirds — believe the tradition-shredding switch to red shirts and black shorts next season will help them crack it in the east is a mystery. This is not the most sophisticated market.
Asia likes teams that win, players that are successful and famous names. David Beckham’s popularity will endure in Asia, but there will be more Manchester City and Chelsea fans after the end of this season than there were at the start. We’re not so different over here. We don’t know much about basketball but Michael Jordan we liked.
Red shirts and dragon motifs will not afford Cardiff world domination any more than the colour worked commercial magic for Middlesbrough or Nottingham Forest, Stoke City or Sunderland in the Premier League.
Winning football and winning footballers is what Asia desires. And teams that they know: because when Cardiff are playing Peterborough United while Chelsea are playing Arsenal, the new owners can paint the town, the shirts and the stadium as red as a fleet of fire trucks, they can bring forth dragons, they can hold a Chinese New Year parade straight down the middle of the pitch for all it will matter.
The only place that will care about Cardiff City will be Cardiff, which is a shame as that is the one set of people that have been ignored.
Snub for The Young Ones
It seems that David Beckham will get his farewell tour after all and is to be included in Great Britain’s Olympic football team. The crowd will not care that, like a Jubilee concert headliner, he cannot hit the high notes any more.
They will wave their Union Flags, as they did for Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Cliff Richard, and make believe nothing has changed. Yet, please, can we now retire the idea of some grand Olympic legacy
Allowing a 37-year-old footballer from an inferior league his last hurrah while better, younger players look on is the opposite of long-term thought.
Beckham’s selection goes nowhere and means nothing. The idea that he will breathe life into Olympic football in Britain is the biggest red herring of all.
Getting the call up: England's former captain David Beckham looks as though he will get an Olympic call up
In other countries, the Olympic football tournament has credibility because it is taken seriously. Teams are picked to win and the competition is designed to build the experience of the next generation. As the formation of the Great Britain team was regarded as a one-off from the start, we refused to consider this possibility.
Looking to the future, we could easily have introduced the precedent that any British Under 21 team qualifying for the Olympics — a top three finish at the European Under 21 Championship in 2011 was the criteria this time — would be allowed to compete under the umbrella of Great Britain and pick three over age players.
Instead, we did an old friend a favour with the result that Olympic football remains as worthless from a British perspective as it ever was.
Still, if you liked septuagenarian Sir Cliff singing The Young Ones at Buckingham Palace you’ll probably like this.
Redknapp delay could cost Spurs
No club that cares for its manager allows him to enter the final year of a contract. The delay in securing a long-term future for Harry Redknapp by Tottenham Hotspur is telling. Unease between Redknapp and chairman Daniel Levy has long been suggested, despite the feat in taking the club from the bottom of the Premier League to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Yet delaying on Redknapp could prove a huge mistake. Luka Modric plainly wants to leave, Gareth Bale is sure to come under offer soon.
Paying the price: Spurs could come to regret letting Harry Redknapp's contract talks drag on
Emmanuel Adebayor is already back at Manchester City. Tottenham need permanence. They need a manager who has a fighting chance of persuading the key players to stay, not one who does not even know what the summer holds. Messing Redknapp around may cost Tottenham much more than one very good manager.
Let's hope Portugal progress, for the sake of Ronaldo
Portugal did not deserve to lose to Germany and we must hope they quickly bounce back against Denmark this week. No football tournament has ever been improved by the early departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sofa so out of touch
Alan Hansen says he did not tip Germany, Holland and Portugal for the semi-finals of the European Championship.
He merely made them three of the four teams he fancied to do well. It doesn’t matter. If all three teams are in Group B, they cannot all flourish.
There is a precedent for this. Before the 2006 World Cup, Mark Lawrenson nominated Argentina as winners, Holland as his team to watch and Ivory Coast as his surprise package. He would certainly have been startled by the make-up of Group C.
Basic mistake: The Match of the Day pundits, including Alan Hansen, have to do some more research
And each time this happens, it merely confirms the suspicion that the Match of the Day sofa is little more than the glorified stud bar of a very exclusive golf club whose members are so privileged they are actually paid to join.
Either the BBC’s experts need greater protection or they need to start paying attention: because it wouldn’t happen at Sky.
(Of course, here in Krakow, the Polish television station TVP2’s coverage of Holland versus Denmark was presented by a Charles Hawtrey lookalike in a bad syrup. So you can’t have it all ways.)
Poland is the safe bet for teams
There are 16 teams at this European Championship, 13 based in Poland, three in Ukraine, and one of this trio have already had half their squad felled by a stomach bug. Maybe Ukraine should have stayed in Poland, too.
Szczesny has to calm down
The sending-off of Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the opening game of Euro 2012 has been an accident waiting to happen. Szczesny, 22, is an outstanding prospect, who will only improve and could be Arsenal’s goalkeeper for close to two decades. He does, however, tend towards impetuousness.
Red alert: Szczesny's foul on Dimitris Salpingidis
Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez got the blame last season for trying to win penalties against him, but on both occasions Szczesny invited trouble with reckless chasing from his line. A repeat in the opening game against Greece on Friday and, rightly, he was gone.
This has to be coached out of him at Arsenal next season. Had Poland’s reserve goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton not saved Greece’s penalty with his first touch, Szczesny’s rashness could have been fatal to the host nation’s chances — and it may one day prove equally harmful to Arsenal, too.