Cloud of corruption over the sporting world

From drugs in athletics to bribery and corruption on the football field and the whispers of cricket matches lost deliberately, there is the smell of dishonesty about almost every form of competition.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini ... kicked into the wilderness.   -  REUTERS

Sport, that lovely romantic dream of a pastime that we all fell in love with when we were kids, is in trouble right across the board.

From drugs in athletics to bribery and corruption on the football field and the whispers of cricket matches lost deliberately, there is the smell of dishonesty about almost every form of competition.

You can’t trust the outcome of any game and that is spoiling sport for the masses who cannot understand why their heroes cheat, why the rulers need to fix the placing of events or why anyone should interfere in what, for most of us, is a relaxation.

I have heard not a single suggestion of wrongdoing in underwater darts, school girls’ netball or synchronised swimming but I will not be surprised if newspapers expose any of those games as being under the control of the Mafia.

 

Of course, the police have swooped, the FBI have taken part in the action, arrests have been made and resignations accepted but it is not just the money that has changed hands when we thought these games were straight as a James Anderson yorker.

The worst result may yet prove to be that those beautiful yearnings among teenage lads and lasses will die never to be reborn.

Young athletes, cricketers, footballers, snooker players and the rest who would have played without a second thought of a payment, or a cheque or the promise that it was possible to make a living because of the speed of one’s hands, the ability to weave one’s way past a defender, or one’s strength, or eyesight, will, either from disgust or because there is no future in their favourite game, turn their hand to another profession.

I hope not because, like many another ambitious young men, I managed to forge a career from sport.

It will be an almighty shame if we are deprived of the chance to see some of the most thrilling skills the world has to offer but I wonder which parent will dare to let their child enter football as it tries to fight off the results of the corruption at the top where both Sepp Blatter, the long serving president of the world game and the former French midfield artist Michel Platini, who must have expected to be his successor, have been kicked into the wilderness.

Or, if you had a son or a daughter who could run quicker than the opposition, would you be keen to see him or her get involved with the Olympic movement which has Seb Coe, a former star of the track, under suspicion as he tries to force the druggies out of athletics? Probably not.

As for dear old white-clad, innocent looking cricket, which has a history of double dealing going back to the 17th century, we guess that the game is far from clean for all the measures that have been taken.

Not that the history of matches bought and sold is the end of the story. The first Olympics, organised in the olive groves of ancient Greece, had to come to a halt because the tradition of sport played but not paid for was broken repeatedly.

Winners in those far off days were rewarded with a wreath of olive leaves by the organisers but when they got back to their villages the chiefs were keen to give them money and land and every honour they could lay their hands on.

The ancients thought that was corruption enough; heaven alone know how they would have reacted to the talk of millions of pounds handed to officials to ensure the modern Games were staged where the politicians could benefit.

It will be a long time before the Olympic committee is forced to put a stop to competition and before Test cricket, which is already too slow for the modern spectator, shuffles off our screens; but that day is approaching.

Day-night Tests seem to draw back some of the crowds who used to fill the Gabba, the WACA, the Melbourne and Sydney cricket grounds; the novelty of a pink ball may add to the excitement and there is even a suggestion that the toss — that unique game changer — may be done away with so that the away team always has the choice of batting or bowling.

If that happens, cricket will change fundamentally but it might also waken the thinkers to find other ways of correcting the steady flow of the most loved game so that the corrupters leave it be.

That would be a change for the better.