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.
“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.
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.
As it comes to the end of one of its most difficult years in memory there was some good news at last for the FAI last week. A survey of Irish adults has shown that football was the most popular team sport in terms of participation in the country last year. 12% of people surveyed took part in the game over the past twelve months. Replicating recent trends, Football was played by more people than both Gaelic football and hurling put together who polled 6% and 3% respectively. Perhaps most surprisingly only 1 in 50 people had tried their hand at rugby during 2011. Swimming at (36%) and jogging (24%) remain the most popular forms of exercise for Irish people.
The latest episode of our sports podcast Sporting Chancers. Hosted by Conor Hayes and featuring David Hughes, James McDermott and Colm Booth discussing the payment of managers in the GAA, a preview of the Heineken Cup and the Premiership’s relegation battle.
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