Formula One should forget the money and pull out of Bahrain
21:17 GMT, 14 April 2012
It was an agonising decision and the people in charge of Formula One gave the matter scrupulous thought; you might even say that they tortured themselves.
On the one hand there were infernal questions of ethics, decency and principle. On the other, there were shedloads of easy money.
Finally, they announced their decision: game, set and match to filthy lucre.
Supremo: Bernie Ecclestone is the most powerful figure in British motor racing
The Bahrain Grand Prix goes ahead next Sunday. Now, I have never been to Bahrain and, were I ever to go, I should make quite certain that my visit did not coincide with the Grand Prix, a noxious, raucous, polluting affront to the environment, masquerading as a sport.
Last year it was cancelled, following a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations which resulted in injuries and deaths. The months that followed brought still worse disturbances, most notably the arrests of 20 doctors who treated wounded demonstrators and were jailed for up to 15 years for their compassionate response.
With its cavalier attitude towards democratic standards and human rights, along with allegations of torture of prisoners, its callous ill-treatment of a hunger striker and its flagrant disregard for conventional, civilised values, Bahrain seemed a place best avoided.
But then, there is that matter of money. The place is awash with petrodollars, and motor racing has claimed its share. There are commercial agreements in place, huge sums are at stake, the kingdom has invested untold millions in advertising themselves through those screaming machines. Compensation could be crippling. And yet the danger of disruption was real and informed reports suggested that various teams were wavering.
Having his say: Sir Jackie Stewart wants the race to be staged in Bahrain
Whereupon three distinctive voices were raised in favour of continuing with the race, no matter what those tiresome civil rights people might think.
Sir Jackie Stewart, that renowned champion of the underdog, asked: 'What about the sponsors Whether it's Mobil or Total or Shell, they're going to be seen by hundreds of millions of people… do you think it's correct not to get the exposure they have bought as a supplier'
And, while we were still chuckling at that cringing little effort, up piped John Yates. Yes, Yates of the Yard. He is currently employed by the Bahrain government to advise on police reform – no, really – and he announced that the whole affair was invented by the social media.
He conceded that the 'almost nightly skirmishes that take place in certain villages are a potential block on progress' but that, apparently, didn't signify too much. Why, he insisted that he felt safer in Bahrain than he did in London, the city for whose safety he was so recently responsible. You could not even begin to make it up.
Finally, Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder who stands to collect a race fee of some 25million, sent a wondrously unsubtle message to the teams. 'We can't say, “You've got to go'',' he said. 'Although they would be in breach of their agreement with us if they didn't go.'
Yates: Now employed by the Bahrain government
These are powerful witnesses, so we should remind ourselves of their credentials. Stewart is a former world champion, a royal court jester and a bosom chum of the great “Sir” Fred Goodwin of RBS, the bank from which our Jackie reportedly trousered several million pounds as a 'global ambassador'.
Dear old Yates is blessed with both a sense of the ridiculous and a neck of pure brass. If I wanted an informed appraisal of London's finest restaurants, or was anxious to secure my daughter a post with the Met Police, then he might be my first port of call. Sadly, this is the fellow who, just last week, was accused of 'poor judgment' by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
As for Ecclestone, what can we say of that all-round good egg He is the jovial billionaire who described the action of the Spanish motor racing fans in blacking their faces to taunt Lewis Hamilton as 'a bit of a joke'. He is also the man who once remarked that Adolf Hitler was 'able to get things done'.
Now, the fact that this ghastly triumvirate is solidly behind the staging of the race does not necessarily mean that it should not go ahead as planned.
But I do suggest that when Stewart, Ecclestone and Yates of the Yard speak with a single voice, then the wisest place to be is on the other side of the argument. And when protesting passions run as high as they are running in Bahrain, then simple prudence would seem the wiser course.
Last year, cancellation was accepted as an appropriate reaction to the threat of disruption. With due regard to the tragic victims – Mobil and Total, Shell and Bernie – I suggest that the same course should be followed this week.
Filthy lucre should not always enjoy the last word. And the world would be no poorer for the loss of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
England could do worse than try again with Hoddle
Once upon a time, you could see the future. Tottenham were the team that everybody outside Manchester wanted to be.
Bright, inventive, even ‘swashbuckling’ in the eyes of their more romantic followers, they were
destined for something wonderful.
Probably not the title but quite certainly Europe; with the chance of a cavalier thrust at the FA Cup.
After which, they would hand over their manager to serve the national cause; the minklined,
platinum-plated conscription of Harry Redknapp.
Now here’s a funny thing: it hasn’t worked out like that.
Disappointing results: Harry Redknapp isn't quite such an overwhelming favourite to be the next England boss now
Spurs have won just one of their last eight League games, the free-flowing torrent is reduced to a
trickle, Gareth Bale is no longer a genius and Harry has feet of clay.
lunatic fringe of the twitterati is booming that he was always
overrated and that Spurs should think seriously about keeping him, while
England should celebrate their narrow escape.
are witnessing the politics of the last result or, in Redknapp’s case,
the last eight results. Cursed with the attention span of lethargic
goldfish, his faithless friends have started to cast their net more
In a curious fashion, I believe they should have done this from the start. Redknapp has an elevated
of the way the game should be played, he conjures outstanding
performances from unlikely players, he is one of those managers you want
to see succeed and his credit marks should not be
reduced by trite reappraisal. But he is not the designated answer to England’s prayers.
Could they go back Glenn Hoddle at a training session before the 1998 World Cup
Before Redknapp’s coronation, the FA would be well-advised to ponder the claim of, say, Roy Hodgson. And, since the panel is composed of intelligent adults, they may well want to consider the virtues of a number of foreign candidates. This may enrage the Little Englander tendency but that is a price we should gladly pay.
Another possibility is more interesting. Glenn Hoddle produced the most impressive England side
since Sir Bobby Robson. A thoughtful, accomplished coach, he ultimately foundered on some
stridently quirky beliefs and practices, which disrupted his handling of the national team. If he has shed those distractions, then he could offer something important to the English cause.
Otherwise, Redknapp is the favourite and properly so. And he must remain favourite, even if Spurs
should succumb to an ordinary Chelsea team at Wembley on Sunday.
For his side are the product of a sharp and lively mind. England have acute need of such an asset.
The connections of Mario Balotelli would like it known that their man is sadly misunderstood. High-spirited, of course, prone to the odd laddish prank. In short, mercurial. Well, a week ago, the mercurial Mr Balotelli thrust a full set of studs into the shin of a fine professional named Alex Song.
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Seeing red: Mario Balotelli was sent off against Arsenal