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Sporting Bodies Diminish The Sports They Represent

Especially with the outstanding coverage we get on the TV, a huge variety of sports are these days available to the public either to watch or to participate in. Sports are good. They promote health; we should all get involved one way or another.

Now, as a sport grows, so does the need to have someone to run it and therein lies the problem. You can expect with racing certainty that anything controlled by self-satisfied, self-serving committees with chief executives and all that pomp will ultimately diminish the sports they represent.

FIFA. Need I say more? Well I can so I will.

On Your Sports Bike UCI

Take road race cycling for example. This sport has a bad rep. Drugs have been rife in the peloton for decades although it kind of begs the question that, if they are all doing it, where’s the advantage? Nevertheless, to be fair, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), a governing body that I have little faith in, have cracked down and the sport is cleaner than it once was. The problem is they are now so paranoid that the slightest error can make all the difference as to how an athlete is portrayed.

At the time of writing this there is a ‘furore’ that has been blown out of all proportion by a media desperate to bring down the next British celebrity, with the flames being further fanned by a narky German cyclist whose own star is fading.

The rider in question is our very own Chris Froome, who happens to be a British cycling star and thus ripe for a good kick in the nuts from his own media. Froome has asthma. He takes a legal asthma drug that many sufferers and racing cyclists take. After a day race in Spain he was found to have too much of it in his system, allegedly blemishing his otherwise squeaky clean record.

I don’t know if he is guilty or innocent of any wrong-doing; that’s not the issue here. What I do know is that as the UCI has grown over the hundred years or so since it’s inception it has produced a set of rules so dense, so labyrinthine, as to beggar belief. Thus nobody really knows who is right and who is wrong because the rules are open to many interpretations and thus cloud the issue rather than resolve it.

The effect, over time, has been to neuter the sport. The successful, exciting, catch-me-if-you-can breakaway of old has almost been eliminated. Take the Milan-San Remo race. Once a brilliant and vibrant one-day race it has most years become a procession until the last ten kilometres when everybody charges like buggery for the finishing line.

Rules keep sports and sports people in line. Too many rules, like too many cooks, spoil the game.

The Sports Legacy Of Bernie

Say what you like about Bernie Ecclestone, and I often did, but at least when the F1 racing was like watching paint dry, only quickly, you knew that the pit side antics of bolshy Bernie would keep the circus lively. Over time though the sports governing body (FIA), with their efforts to make the sport as safe as sitting on a sofa, have diminished the gladiatorial spectacle.

It is of course easy to sprawl in front of the television and carp. Nobody wants to see drivers killed. This writer has been at race meetings in the past when this has happened and seeing someone die live as it were is a chastening experience. On the TV it is remote, like a movie…..

We do not want dead or damaged drivers.

But like the motor racing hero drivers of yore, many of whom died doing the thing they loved, our modern day racing drivers know the risks they take. They love their sport and they enjoy the rewards of putting themselves at hazard.

Very occasionally though someone will be badly injured or killed and this is my problem. You cannot have an exciting sport yet legislate against every adverse occurrence. If a freak accident occurs then that is what it is. Every step taken to ‘learn lessons’ means most motor sports are diminished. F1 is no longer edge-of-your-seat stuff and HALO is a case in point.

From what I read the drivers don’t like it and it looks daft. The feature will probably work from a safety aspect, but it detracts. How long will it be before F1 cars are fully enclosed? Would that then be F1? In American indy-car racing they don’t have a fit of the vapours every time something bad happens.

I don’t know much about the people who run F1 now. They seem to me to be to be money-men who don’t have the showbiz attitude of old Bernie who was at least up front, not to say brazen, about maximising the mazuma.

The FIA are to blame for dull motor racing and their cold dead hand of administration is felt across almost aspects of a sport that can never be risk free.

Many of these sports associations are run by over-paid people who are too full of their own self-importance and that includes motor sport. Things need to change before the only sport left to us will be zimmer-frame racing; on a soft surface obviously.

And as for the biggest committee of all, in Westminster, well, don’t get me started…

Geoff Maxted