It was and will be the least surprising headline ‘scoop’ of the year, Qatar bribed officials to win their bid for the 2022 World Cup. The only surprising part of the tale being that such a vast paper trail exists of the money. I always thought bribes are supposed to be discreet. Isn’t this how the right to host sports events are won? When an undemocratic country are bidding, the potential for interference in the process is both too tempting and too easy for it not to degenerate into grubby handshakes and proverbial brown paper envelopes.
On April 21st, a day after Manchester United went down 2-0 to David Moyes’ former employers Everton on what must have been one of the Scotsman’s darkest days of a torrid 10 months in charge, strong rumours began circulating that Moyes was on the verge of losing his job after officially failing to achieve Champions league qualification.
On July 19th the O2 in Dublin will host a UFC event for the first time since 2009, with Dublin’s Conor McGregor touted to headline a card featuring other Irish fighters who have plied their trade on the European circuit’s Cage Warriors over the last few years, desperate to break into the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion.
In the organisations first visit to Ireland in January 2009 the total gate at the o2 was a reported 9,369, with Dublin’s Tom Egan the only Irish representative on the card. Five years later and it’s anticipated that roughly double that amount will attend this July with McGregor, Paul Redmond, Neil Seery, Paddy Holohan and Aisling Daly all expected to compete in front of their home fans. Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields would almost certainly feature too, were they not currently starring in the UFC’s reality series The Ultimate Fighter which will begin airing on BT Sport this week.
“The GAA hierarchy are like the pigs in Animal Farm. Repeating the mantras of volunteerism & community while doing the opposite.” Joe Brolly in the aftermath of the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports.
It was a measure of the changing nature of Gaelic Games that if a story of the GAA selling television rights to Sky appeared in the news ten years ago on April Fools’ Day it would have been instantly recognised as a trick for the day that’s in it. But not anymore, the fact the GAA had already made a deal with Setanta in previous years, the fact that Sky have become incredibly aggressive in the Irish market in recent times and of course the fact that the deal was cynically flighted to the press a week ago to try and restrict the fallout, all meant that once the official announcement came, we all knew that this was no prank. Sky are here and as is their wont they are here to stay.
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, being punished for his deceitfulness, was compelled to roll a boulder uphill for eternity only to watch the rock slide down the slope every time he reached the summit. If you want to similarly creatively chasten an Irish person, you could arrange that they must watch the frantic denouement to Ireland’s 2014 Six Nation’s campaign over and over without ever getting the relief of Steve Walsh’s final whistle.
It’s one of the oddities of sport that high stakes occasions like the one we saw on Saturday in Paris (for the invested viewer anyway) is probably one of the least enjoyable experiences there is. The wait while Walsh tried to find any reason to allow France’s late score in the corner was particularly tortuous. Nerves ruin the experience of actually watching the contest. With that much on the line, it’s all about the pay-off once the right result is secured.
After typically protracted negotiations, endemic within the highest levels of boxing, George Groves finally signed the contract to fight Carl Froch for the WBA and IBF super middleweight titles live on Sky Sports News last Friday and put an end to speculation that the most highly anticipated rematch in British boxing since Benn-Eubank in 1993 would not happen.
Despite the irritating and shallow “reporting” by Sky Sports, particularly when it comes to boxing, the rematch should deliver on its promise. The first fight last November was a highly entertaining spectacle, with Groves dominating for the first eight rounds before being controversially stopped by referee Howard Foster in the ninth.
On Sunday, the American footballer Michael Sam in a carefully choreographed announcement, revealed he was gay. Sportsmen being upfront about their homosexuality is becoming a much more common occurrence with Donal Óg Cusack, Gareth Thomas and Thomas Hitzlsperger being some of the more high profile examples.
As many have pointed out, the major difference with Sam is he has chosen to come out before his professional career has even begun. It is disappointing that many within the sport have stated that his announcement will see his draft stock fall, but the reaction publicly from the vast majority of players has been hugely positive and it appears in a few months that the NFL will have on its books, an openly gay athlete.
Having effectively been swept under the carpet since the conception of the professional game, the theme of concussion is beginning to appear more frequently in rugby headlines. Although it has been a problem for a long time, its effects and the frequency with which players suffer from its symptoms have only come under the spotlight in recent months.
Growing up watching sport at the beginning of this century the green and gold of Australia was almost synonymous with winning. They captured the Rugby World Cup in 1999 and were a whisker away from retaining it in 2003. Their cricket team were simply the greatest side ever assembled and won three World Cups from 1999-2007 and – 2005 aside – continually hammered England in the Ashes. They hosted a wonderful Olympics in 2000 and finished a staggering (given their population) fourth in the medals table. Also around the turn of the millennium they had the world’s best tennis player in Lleyton Hewitt who in these pre-Federer days looked set to dominate his sport. Ian Thorpe too, long before being eclipsed by Micheal Phelps was all set to be remembered as the Spitzian swimmer of our time.
There haven’t been many nights quite like it and Borussia Dortmund were savouring it. They might still fail in their quest for a second European Cup but Dortmund’s players, fans and their extraordinary manager will always have this game, a testament to the metamorphosis of a club in financial ruin only eight years ago. Remaining on the field with his players, Jürgen Klopp was jumping around in delight, a happiness which for so long looked as if it was going to elude him. The post match media commitments would have to wait, as his players climbed the barricades of the stands, he looked around in surprise and relief, marveling at what he had helped build.