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Boat race sponsors Newton turn tide for women rowers Laura Williamson column

Boat race sponsors turn tide for women rowers at long last with equal funding and prestige

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Laura Williamson: Fergie's harmless joke highlights a more serious matter for women within British sport
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Laura Williamson: Don Valley stadium fiasco is a kick in the teeth for the next Jess
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Laura Williamson: Sickening response of UEFA to plight of travelling Spurs fans
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Laura Williamson: It might all be finished for Pistorius but the Paralympic movement will survive
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Laura Williamson: Mansfield girl made her truly amazing feats seem 'everyday'
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Laura Williamson: Jamieson puts pool before the perks and makes no excuses
27/01/13

Laura Williamson: Netballers court fans – on the other side of the planet
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As the BBC and now BT Sport seem to have noted, you get a lot more action and access for your money when it comes to buying the television, sponsorship and commercial rights for women’s disciplines.

The Boat Race, an event that exudes privilege, pomp and circumstance like no other, might seem an unlikely cause to champion a step forward for sportswomen, but it is the tradition and rigmarole that makes this a particularly important development.

When Katherine Grainger returned from the Sydney Olympics in 2000 after winning Great Britain’s first medal in women’s rowing, a silver in the quad, she said someone came up to her and said: ‘We didn’t even know women rowed.’

You can understand why few — men or women — would want to, given the demands of a sport that has little time for finesse or creativity and commands absolute teamwork to succeed at the highest level.

Anna Watkins (left), with whom Grainger won gold so memorably in London in the double sculls, has said a family member tried to put her off rowing in case ‘she got big arms’. It’s all in the legs, of course, but sweeping generalisations have no time for small technicalities like that.

Watkins ploughed on regardless and, 12 years after Grainger came back from Australia with that silver medal, Britain’s women won their first Olympic gold medals since the sport was added to the programme in 1976 — three of them, in fact.

If the wheels of Oxford and Cambridge can creak slowly into action with regard to a sport as brutal and punishing as rowing, it feels like anything could happen.

WHAT THEY SAID

British athlete Lisa Dobriskey said she did not believe she was ‘competing on a level playing field’ in the Olympic 1500metres final in London and was roundly accused of sour grapes.

The gold medal-winner, Turkey’s Cakir Alptekin, is now facing a lifetime ban after ‘big abnormalities’ were found in her biological passport. Some might just owe Dobriskey an apology.

Accused: Lisa Dobriskey's opponent is facing a lifetime ban for 'big abnormalities' in her biological passport

Accused: Lisa Dobriskey's opponent is facing a lifetime ban for 'big abnormalities' in her biological passport

WHAT I'VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK

Watched Wrexham win the FA Trophy with a 4-1 penalty shootout win over Grimsby.

On Saturday, Grimsby fans congregated in Trafalgar Square for a photo. ‘Which team is this’ said a steward. ‘So are they in the Champions League, then’ I wish.

Glory: Ecstatic Wrexham player-manager Andy Morrell celebrates with the FA Trophy

Glory: Ecstatic Wrexham player-manager Andy Morrell celebrates with the FA Trophy

Got exasperated at the persistent use of the phrase ‘pre-planned’ to describe Rio Ferdinand’s fitness programme. It is either planned or it is not, just like the defender’s ill-advised little jaunt to Doha.

Attended my first Women in Football meeting at Stamford Bridge on Friday after being, I admit, very dubious about the whole idea. I just want to be ‘in football’ rather than a ‘WiF’. I can’t tell you anything else owing to Chatham House rules, but it was certainly very, very interesting.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

Arsenal Ladies beat ASD Torres 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Boreham Wood.

Glad to see there’s still one English team fighting for the cause in Europe — and the women’s final is at Stamford Bridge this year, too. The second leg takes place in Sardinia on Wednesday.

Fran Halsall and Jemma Lowe win a medal each in the World Short-Course Championships in Istanbul

Back on the podium: British swimmers come away with a pair of medals from Istanbul

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UPDATED:

01:47 GMT, 17 December 2012

Fran Halsall and Jemma Lowe claimed silver and bronze medals respectively in tonight's final session of the World Short-Course Championships in Istanbul as Great Britain came away with six top-three finishes.

Lowe took third in the 100m butterfly in a Welsh record of 56.66 seconds, while Halsall then secured an emotional silver in the 50m freestyle in 23.86secs.

The event concludes a year that had promised so much for the British team for whom expectations had been high – if at times unrealistic – going into the Olympics.

Silver: Fran Halsall gives the thumbs up after securing a silver medal at the World Short-Course Championships

Silver: Fran Halsall gives the thumbs up after securing a silver medal at the World Short-Course Championships

However, just three medals – two by Rebecca Adlington plus a superb breakthrough by Michael Jamieson – has seen the sport in the firing line.

Adlington hit out at British Swimming for not having replaced head coach Dennis Pursley while Michael Scott resigned as national performance director last month leaving two key roles vacant.

Podium: Jemma Lowe celebrates her bronze medal

On the podium: Jemma Lowe (right) celebrates her bronze medal

It was against this backdrop that the team arrived in Turkey but now they leave encouraged.

Head coach Dave McNulty told Press Association Sport: 'We've had five good days for British swimming.

'We came here with a lot of other things happening and I said “look it's time now just to swim” and with six medals in the bag, I am actually over the moon.

'It's a little bit more than I expected to be honest.'

Criticism: Rebecca Adlington, pictured at the BBC SPOTY awards,

Criticism: Rebecca Adlington, pictured at the BBC SPOTY awards, criticised British Swimming for not naming a replacement head coach quickly enough

Michael Jamieson wins 200m breaststroke silver at World Short-Course Championships in Istanbul

Jamieson follows up Olympic silver with second-placed finish at World Short-Course Championships

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UPDATED:

00:19 GMT, 15 December 2012

Michael Jamieson displayed all the hunger and desire that drove him to Olympic silver as he banished the memory of a 'hopeless' morning swim to finish second in the 200 metres breaststroke at the World Short-Course Championships in Istanbul.

It was Great Britain's third medal of the five-day competition after Hannah Miley and Jemma Lowe had claimed gold and bronze respectively on the first day at the Sinan Erdem Dome.

It was also hard-fought given the 24-year-old had only squeezed into the final as the slowest qualifier.

Jamieson was the slowest qualifier for the final after a disappointing morning

Jamieson was the slowest qualifier for the final after a disappointing morning

The Bath ITC swimmer's frustration was clear this morning but that is symptomatic of the hunger that helped drive him on when he was living in Paris without funding in an attic room so small he could stand in the middle and touch both walls and with a shower that doubled as a wardrobe.

Coming into the race it was his team-mate Andrew Willis who stood out, a new English record seeing him qualify fourth.

Tonight's line-up was loaded with quality and the pair needed to be at their best to be in the mix and with 50m to go, Jamieson was second and Willis third.

The Scot dug in, holding off the fast-finishing Russian Viatcheslav Sinkevich to lower his own British record to two minutes 03.00 seconds and claim the silver.

The Scot added World Short-Course silver to his Olympic silver medal

The Scot added World Short-Course silver to his Olympic silver medal

It also took more than three seconds off the time he had swum this morning, one he had described as 'hopeless'.

Willis was overhauled to finish fifth in 2:03.29, 0.21secs off the podium.

Jamieson said: 'It just goes to show the power of psychology.

'To be honest, after I came out of that heat I didn't even want to swim the final after seeing the result, I was just so annoyed.

'But I just went back and dressed myself down a bit – it goes to show you can race best times unrested.

'I just went it for it tonight – it was a bonus to get in so I just decided to go for it from the start.

'I didn't want to lose I guess.'

Britain's Lizzie Symonds finished fifth in the 200m backstroke

Britain's Lizzie Symonds finished fifth in the 200m backstroke

USA's Ryan Lochte was in a league of his own as he broke his 200m medley world record

USA's Ryan Lochte was in a league of his own as he broke his 200m medley world record

The race was won in a new championship record of 2:01.35 by Hungary's Daniel Gyurta, who set a world record in holding off Jamieson at the Olympics, although that was subsequently lowered by Akihiro Yamaguchi, fourth here.

Jamieson added: 'I'm getting there – I've got a collection of silver medals, the next stage is to change the colour of that.

'But Dan (Gyurta) is untouchable just now – it's about time someone closed that gap on him, I'd love to see his medal cabinet, it seems to be growing all the time.

'But fair play to him, he's been the man to beat in the last few years and he is running away with titles at the minute.'

Jamieson and Willis train alongside each other and the latter said: “There is definitely part of me that wants to be keeping up with him or beating him at the same time.

'I think deep down we're pretty competitive against each other in training and it's great, at the same time to have someone to push you.

'He is a great swimmer, he's got the medals coming in now and that is what I should be learning from.'

Another Bath swimmer, Lizzie Simmonds, was fifth in the 200m backstroke in 2:04.55.

The 21-year-old was fourth in London, after which she moved from Loughborough to embark upon a completely different training programme.

The women's 4x100m medley relay finished fourth in a British record of 3:51.85.

Jaz Carlin was fifth in the 400m freestyle (4:02.45) and Sophie Allen finished sixth in the 100m individual medley (59.03).

Ryan Lochte, the 11-time Olympic medallist, was a world apart as he lowered his own world record in the 200m individual medley to 1:49.63.

Charl Schwartzel fires moves into joint lead of Alfred Dunhill

Schwartzel fires brilliant 64 to move into joint lead of Alfred Dunhill

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UPDATED:

17:35 GMT, 14 December 2012

South African Charl Schwartzel could claim to be the consistent player in golf right now.

The 28-year-old shares the halfway lead with France's Gregory Bourdy after a sparkling second round 64 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship on home soil at Leopard Creek.

After finishes of fifth, third and second in the past month Schwartzel won the Thailand Championship by 11 shots last Sunday against a field that included Bubba Watson, his successor as Masters champion this April, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Charl Schwartzel

Scott Jamieson

Looking good: Charl Schwartzel (left) is in the joint lead, while Scott Jamieson (right) is also in the hunt

He was 25 under par there and is now already 13 under on a course where his record includes one win and four second places.

'It was there for the taking and luckily enough I took advantage early on,' Schwartzel said after grabbing an eagle and six birdies and keeping a bogey off his card for the second day running.

'I could have made a few more, but we can't get too greedy. All in all a very good round and I've put myself in a very good position.'

Schwartzel is 73 under for his last 4 1/2 tournaments and even after adding a 65 to his pacesetting opening 66 Bourdy did not under-estimate the size of the task facing him over the weekend.

'Charl is a great player, one of the best in the world,' the 30-year-old world No 184 said. 'You have to do the job over four rounds and that is difficult. But I'm feeling great and I've played two good rounds.'

In the swing: Robert Rock plays out of a bunker on the 13th hole

In the swing: Robert Rock plays out of a bunker on the 13th hole

After being overtaken when Schwartzel played his first 11 holes in seven under, making his eagle at the 541-yard 18th, three-time European Tour winner Bourdy pitched in for an eagle two on the sixth and converted curling 25-foot birdie putts at the fifth and eighth.

Darren Fichardt's 68 left him in third place four strokes adrift of the leading pair, with fellow South African Louis De Jager and England's Steve Webster one further back.

Webster lost a play-off for the rain-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban last weekend and the player who beat him there, Scotland's Scott Jamieson, is also going well again at six under.

Louis Oosthuizen climbed from one over to five under, but the 2010 Open champion went in the lake at the last for a bogey six and 67.

One of the sub-plots of the week is George Coetzee's bid to stay in the world's top 50 and so earn a US Masters debut next April.

Coetzee will resume three under, but Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, one of the players who could have denied him, crashed out on 10 over after an 80.

Scott Jamieson wins Nelson Mandela Championship

Jamieson takes Nelson Mandela Championship with super second day show

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 9 December 2012

Scotland's Scott Jamieson won the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship, which is the opening event of the new European Tour season, in South Africa tonight.

In a tournament cut to 36 holes and on a Royal Durban course reduced to a par-65 because of saturated fairways, Jamieson shot a second-round 57 and then beat England's Steve Webster and Spaniard Edoardo de la Riva in a play-off.

De la Riva bogeyed the first extra hole and then, in fast-fading light, Webster, the only one of the trio to have won on the circuit before, did the same when they returned to the 18th tee.

Champ: Scott Jamieson of Scotland poses with the trophy after winning the Nelson Mandela Championship

Champ: Scott Jamieson of Scotland poses with the trophy after winning the Nelson Mandela Championship

Beaten: Steve Webster lost in the play-off to the Scot

Beaten: Steve Webster lost in the play-off to the Scot

Jamieson, whose previous best finish was third, will not go into the Tour record books for his 57, however. Because of the course conditions it will not officially count, but that will not matter to the 29-year-old ranked 167th in the world.

He was not even in the top 60 after his opening round of 66 and admitted afterwards: 'Starting the day I probably didn't think I would be standing here holding the trophy.'

Let's go: Jamieson plays his second shot onto the 18th green on the first extra play-off hole

Let's go: Jamieson plays his second shot onto the 18th green on the first extra play-off hole

All three players involved in the play-off finished their rounds by lunchtime and had to wait all afternoon to see if anybody could beat their seven-under totals of 123.

South Africa's Tim Clark had the best chance, but double-bogeyed the 17th when joint leader.

De la Riva, who less than a fortnight ago came through the Tour qualifying school in joint ninth place, was left to rue not only failing to get up and down from a bunker in the play-off, but also a closing bogey in his second-round 61.

That's better: Playing conditions were fine after the two-day washout

That's better: Playing conditions were fine after the two-day washout

Webster, who had the second of his
two victories in Portugal five years ago, produced a 60 and almost
clinched victory on the first extra hole when his 30-foot birdie putt
came up just short.

Next time round, though, he could not recover from pulling his drive into thick rough.

Earlier, Jamieson could have won it
outright on the 305-yard ninth – his last – when he drove the green, but
just missed a 12-foot eagle attempt.

He had earlier gone to the turn in a five-under 26 that included four birdie twos.

Lazy day: Pelicans sitting around on the course

Lazy day: Pelicans sitting around on the course

'I knew I needed a fast start and was
lucky enough to get that,' Jamieson added after also being presented
with a framed drawing of Mandela.

'It's an honour to win a tournament
like this. Getting your name on any European trophy is a fantastic
achievement, but it's a bit more special with someone like Nelson.'

Joint fourth a stroke behind were Clark, German Max Kieffer, Dane Morten Orum Madsen and England's Matthew Nixon.

David Sparkes wants meeting with Rebecca Adlington

British Swimming chief Sparkes seeks clear-the-air meeting with 'insulted' Adlington

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UPDATED:

01:33 GMT, 5 December 2012

British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes wants to set up an urgent meeting with Rebecca Adlington after the four-time Olympic medallist said she felt “insulted” by the governing body following the review into the team's under-performance in London.

The 23-year-old has been vocal over the last 24 hours, first criticising that there being no new head coach following Dennis Pursley's return to the United States immediately after the Games.

This was followed today by an interview in The Times in which she said: 'It's not good enough. I feel insulted, disheartened and saddened by the way they have ignored us, the swimmers, in all of this.'

Insulted: Rebecca Adlington (centre) was irritated that British Swimming were launching an investigation into this summer's performances

Insulted: Rebecca Adlington (centre) was irritated that British Swimming were launching an investigation into this summer's performances

Adlington was one of only two British medallists, the other being Michael Jamieson, in the summer as the team fell short of their base target of five.

A review was announced immediately after but the decision of Michael Scott to resign as national performance director left the sport without an incumbent in two key roles.

Today British Swimming announced Mark Perry, currently head of development, would become interim technical leader with immediate effect with Graham Bassi moving from Swansea ITC to take on Perry's role.

It still may not quell the criticism and Sparkes wants to address the issues brought up by Adlington as well as other swimmers who have been vocal on Twitter.

He said: 'I don't quite yet know what the problem is but I hope to soon because I am desperately trying to set up an early meeting with Rebecca and her colleagues.

'We are just struggling to find a date that meets her needs at the moment.
“But we are working hard on it.'

He added: 'If Rebecca felt pretty strongly I am a pretty approachable kind of chap and if she had dropped me an email or have picked up the phone I would happily have met with her.

Happy Adlington managed to take a bronze at this summer's London Games

Happy Adlington managed to take a bronze at this summer's London Games

'I recognise she is pretty unhappy with me now – well with British Swimming – I want to put it right.

'I want to listen to her and hear what she is going to say. I am sure she has got some good stuff to say to us and I want to hear it.'

There has been a sense of isolation emanating from those who have been critical, something Sparkes queried, claiming Craig Hunter, who chaired the review panel, was frustrated by the low number of swimmers who became actively involved with American sports psychologist Katrina Radke – a point of contact for athletes to speak anonymously.

He said: 'I know Craig and his group tried really hard to get to the athletes and get their view but I equally know Craig himself was disappointed that more athletes did not participate, despite the fact he put in place some additional resources so they could either comment by email, if that was appropriate, or they could have a private interview.

'It's been suggested to me a lot of the athletes just wanted to move on rather than reflect on what had gone wrong to move forward.'

Neither does Sparkes agree they were rudderless given Scott only left at the end of last week, and believes accusations of delays are countered by the appointments of Perry and Bassi while Ian Mason, currently World Class director of operations across all aquatics programmes, will for the moment focus on swimming.

Look out, Chris: Adlington was with Frank Lampard and Sir Chris Hoy at the The Emeralds and Ivy Ball this weekend

Look out, Chris: Adlington was with Frank Lampard and Sir Chris Hoy at the The Emeralds and Ivy Ball this weekend

The search for a permanent head coach and performance director are under way with Sparkes hoping to make appointments early in the new year, although he warned it could be as late as March.

In the meantime, Perry will agree selection policies and finalise the exact dates of the June trials for the World Championships in Barcelona.

In the review, published on Sunday, much was made about the need for improved communication.

And while Sparkes felt Scott had made strides, he did not feel that had been the case with Pursley.

The American has an unquestionable pedigree over many years in the United States but oversaw a team of which the vast majority failed to match their times from the trials at the Games a few months later.

Sparkes said: 'He's been around the block a few times.

'I think what he should have been is much more checking and challenging.

'He should have more influence than he did.'

Referring to Bill Sweetenham, the tough but effective former performance director, Sparkes said: 'I don't think we want to go back to 'Bill says…

Clear-the-air: Adlington is a four-time Olympic medallist

Clear-the-air: Adlington is a four-time Olympic medallist

'I think the important thing is to empower our coaches to make the right decisions, but from time to time it is helpful if our boss takes an interest in our work.

'In some respects in the Sweetenham era it was “do as I say' and then Michael pulled the pendulum back to 'do what you think is right”.

'Maybe we need to get back slightly towards “hang on – we are not saying do as I say but let's all agree what we are going to do and let's work together to find the right strategy”.'

Scott's resignation was leaked to the press and, despite it not looking good, Sparkes had few concerns about this, saying: 'Leaks happen. I don't run a secret society, we are not MI5.'

While admitting the 25million swimming was awarded in the four years before London was not borne out by results, Sparkes insists he has never considered quitting himself.

'No. At the end of the day I have a much wider responsibility to the sport in the sense that I sit across the whole aspect of the sport and my job is to make sure there are more people swimming, we are building pools, we are getting on and driving forward on all the programmes.

'If you look at the results in the Paralympics they were broadly in line with the expectations, if you look at diving, water polo and synchro similarly.'

Rebecca Adlington hits out at British Swimming over failure to appoint head coach

Adlington says failure to appoint new head coach has left British swimmers in limbo

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UPDATED:

19:49 GMT, 3 December 2012

Former double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington has called on British Swimming to appoint a new head coach as soon as possible claiming the current situation has left swimmers feeling in limbo.

Dennis Pursley vacated the head coach role immediately after the pool programme at the 2012 Games, although his return to his native United States to coach at the University of Alabama had always been his intention, rather than any reaction to Team GB's poor showing.

The team came away with just three medals – two bronzes by Adlington in the 400 metres and 800m freestyle and Michael Jamieson's silver in the 200m breaststroke – and a devastated national performance director Michael Scott quickly announced a review.

Time for a change: Adlington has urged British swimming to appoint a new coach as soon as possible

Time for a change: Adlington has urged British swimming to appoint a new coach as soon as possible

Five men, including Michael Phelps' coach Bob Bowman, were appointed to the panel but by the time it was published yesterday Scott had resigned after refusing to relocate from Australia, where his family are based.

The Australian had been splitting his time between Australia and Britain but the review concluded the incumbent must be based here full-time.

As a result, two key positions are now vacant although it was always intended the head coach role would not be filled until the conclusion of the review.

For Adlington, though, it has been too long and she told BBC Sport: 'Why is it taking so long We've been dying for them to appoint a head coach for months.

Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington

Face of British swimming: Adlington, who won two bronze medals at the London Games, has questioned why it has taken so long to appoint a new head coach

'Surely, that would make more sense for the head coach to be appointed before the review, even if it was just one who said “look this is semi-permanent, you might want to continue after the review but you might help us until then making these decisions”.

'A lot of us don't know who we are going to at the moment. Who do we speak to It's awful what's been going on.'

Names linked with the head role include Adlington's own coach Bill Furniss along with Chris Nesbit, who ran the successful off-shore centre set up in Australia during Bill Sweetenham's tenure, while John Atkinson, British disability swimming performance director, has been mentioned to succeed Scott.

Were Furniss to be appointed, it would have a huge effect on Adlington who has trained with him since the age of 12.

Before the publication of the review, Adlington said: 'Literally everything is on hold, he doesn't really know very much. 'He doesn't know who the next head coach is going to be, he doesn't know whether he wants to do it or anything like that.

'I don't want to be nasty to Bill because he is only 58 but he probably wouldn't go on for another four years coaching and if I was to get in (to the pool), I probably wouldn't want to swim for another four years.

'No-one can make a decision, it's not just me – no-one knows what is happening, no-one knows what is happening with the programmes, it's all up in the air – that is the thing for me and Bill.

'Just waiting really – waiting and waiting. I just wish they would get on with it.'

British swimming chief Michael Scott offers to quit after London 2012 flop

Swimming chief Scott offers to quit after London 2012 flop

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UPDATED:

22:49 GMT, 23 November 2012

The inquest into British Swimming's
Olympic flop claimed its first victim last night as it emerged that
national performance director Michael Scott had offered his resignation.

Scott had been criticised for
remaining based in Australia while trying to oversee Team GB's medal campaign and making regular flights to and from his home in Melbourne in
first or business class. He was also on a contract worth around
1.2million – and paid no UK tax on the publicly funded salary.

Fall guy: Michael Scott (left)

Fall guy: Michael Scott (left)

British Swimming is holding a review into the poor return of three medals in the pool – a silver for Michael Jamieson and two bronzes for Rebecca Adlington – despite 25m of public funding.

The post-mortem is being headed by Craig Hunter, the chef de mission of Paralympics GB and a member of British Swimming's executive board.

His report is due to be presented on December 6 – and it is likely to contain condemnation of Scott's methods and the increasingly 'soft' culture that grew in the sport during his many absences.

Scott has been linked with a job at the head of Australian athletics.

The news is a setback for David Sparkes, the chief executive of British Swimming, who handed Scott a new four-year contract in April.

In August, Sparkes backed Scott, and blamed the staff under him for the fact that Britain had fallen short of their target of five to seven medals.

'The performances have been very disappointing,' said Sparkes. 'Our swimmers have failed to achieve the times and we've got to find out why. We will be making changes.

'You have got to have trust in people and Michael is the head of the team rather than one of the coaches. It's at that level where we have to discover where we went wrong.'

It seems the review panel may disagree. There are a number of questions being asked that relate to the large allocation of lottery funding and a lavish British Gas sponsorship. UK Sport have already warned funding levels will be cut.

Although popular, Scott, 55, is regarded as having allowed British Swimming to slide backwards since the Beijing Games.

In August, Scott said he would stay on. 'My style is not to quit. My style is not to walk away – and I won't be walking away,' he said.

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

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

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UPDATED:

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

PIETERSEN NOT UNPOPULAR

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

TURNING ON HART

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.

WHAT CAR IS YOUR CLUB
Roberto Mancini

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

It's
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.

Italian Open 2012: Richard Bland leads at halfway stage

Bland birdie run hands Englishman control of Italian Open at halfway stage

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 14 September 2012

Richard Bland birdied the last three holes of his second round to take the halfway lead at the Italian Open in Turin.

The Englishman carded a second successive 66, with birdies at the first, the 11th and four of the last six holes to eventually move ahead of a developing logjam at the top of the leaderboard.

France's Gregory Bourdy shot 64 to leap to 11 under alongside Scot Marc Warren and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who both went round in 65, and Garth Mulroy of South Africa (67).
Bourdy said: 'This morning it was perfect conditions to play on this course.

Out in front: Bland has taken the lead at the turn of the Italian Open in Turin

Out in front: Bland has taken the lead at the turn of the Italian Open in Turin

Italian open 2012

Click here for latest leaderboard

'It was a lovely round and I enjoyed it a lot. I was very solid and I'm very proud. Almost everything went right today.

'Last week my driving was wonderful and so were my irons, and that continued today. I'll try to do the same at the weekend.'

Richard McEvoy was at 10 under after following his opening 66 with a four-under-par 68. First-round leader Joel Sjoholm fell into a seven-way tie for seventh on nine under after failing to go with the trend of improved scoring.

He could only follow his opening round eight-under-par 64 with a 71 and was level with fellow Swedes Mikael Lundberg and Joakim Lagergren, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal, South African Richard Sterne, England's Sam Little and Victor Dubuisson of France.

Great Scot! Jamieson of Scotland plays off the tee during round two

Great Scot! Jamieson of Scotland plays off the tee during round two while Raphael Jacquelin watches his shot head towards the green (below)

Great Scot! Jamieson of Scotland plays off the tee during round two while Raphael Jacquelin watches his shot head towards the green (below)

English pair Lee Slattery and David Howell were hot on Sjoholm's tail overnight and that was where they remained, shooting 71 and 70 respectively to join compatriot Robert Coles and a host of others on eight under.

Ryder Cup-bound Martin Kaymer, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Welshman Bradley Dredge, Darren Fichardt of South Africa and India's Shiv Kapur completed the group.

A second Ryder Cup player, Italian Francesco Molinari, was in the group at seven under as was Graeme Storm, who was fifth in Holland last week having led for two rounds and started well again here with rounds of 69 and 68.

Molinari's brother Eduardo, the big-hitting Alvaro Quiros and Frenchman Thomas Levet were among the higher-profile players to miss the cut.

Picturesque: Slattery sends a putt towards the hole

Picturesque: Slattery sends a putt towards the hole