As football’s Premier League competition gets fully under way – already dominating the sporting media headlines day by day, never mind week by week – over the weekend I was left reflecting upon the current state of a couple of other sports whose fortunes are not quite so blessed …
ATHLETICS (OR “TRACK AND FIELD”)
It is a truism to record that, in the world rankings of major global sports, interest in athletics sits some way down the league table save, perhaps, when it comes to the Olympics because (arguably) they transcend everything.
To a degree it was ever thus.
Back in the halcyon days of UK greats like Coe, Ovett, Cram, Peter Elliot, Daley Thompson and javelin thrower Steve Backley thirty five and more years ago – despite a thriving amateur community athletics scene – and being blunt about it, you’d rarely see UK athletic stadia rammed with punters. Despite being a habitual TV watcher of major athletic championships, as far as I can recall – admittedly my memory is not perhaps what it once was – my own experiences of ever attending attending major athletics meets in the flesh total just two – both of them at the Crystal Palace and neither of them particularly compelling.
Even legendary US Olympic track & field stars like 400 metre hurdler Ed Moses and 200m and 400m specialist Michael Johnson used to testify that in the vast US sporting firmament of such as baseball, basketball, NFL and (ice) hockey, it was a minnow as far as the American public was concerned.
This summer so far I have dipped but briefly in and out of TV coverage of the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and (over the course of the last few days) the European Championships in Germany but – to be brutal about it and with due deference paid to those Brits who made the podia – I watched the “moving images” flitting across my screen with about as much interest as I attach to the BBC programme Pointless whilst I’m waiting for the BBC One 6 O’Clock News bulletin to begin.
Another supposed global sport/game with unwarranted pretensions to expanding its world domination is that of rugby union.
World Rugby – the governing body – looks across longingly at the reach and commercial power of football and spends far too much of its time plotting and hatching fantasy ideas to expand into China and all other points of the compass betwixt and between when in actual fact it currently faces huge issues that are going to grow exponentially.
Chief amongst these is the fact that currently over 200 former professional players – and now also some amateur ones in addition – are pursuing legal action against various rugby authorities for the long-term issues they are now suffering from as a result of repetitive concussion injuries and/or worryingly-frequent new diagnoses of early-onset dementia (and let us not forget that some time ago American Football allocated a reported US$750 million to dealing with its version of the very self-same problem).
Closer to home – in the English Premiership, which totters along as an uneasy cabal of its senior clubs colluded with by the ineffectual and hapless RFU – both of whom harbour ridiculously buoyant notions of the potential cash that can be generated by the game – the effects of decades of self-important “living beyond their means” are now coming home with alarming rapidity.
Already – before the 2022/2023 Premiership season has even kicked off – it is on the cards that Worcester Warriors may be about to “go to the wall;
See here for a link to a report that appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL
It seems that the Warriors may not be alone. My spy with the recesses of the RFU tells me that the former London Wasps, now just the “Wasps” – lately based in Coventry and owners of the former football ground there – are in real and present danger of the equivalent of defaulting upon their mortgage payments.
Elsewhere (the word has it that) neither the players, nor their agents, are happy bunnies after the Premiership unilaterally imposed a new regime whereby agents no longer get paid their commission on top of player deals – but instead now have to obtain their crusts from their own players’ wages.
And this all concerning a game in which currently – at Premiership level – the average career of a player last just three and a half seasons, thanks to a combination of issues permed from some or all of the following: – wage caps and/or depressed salaries, injuries, concussion, player-turnover and indeed “the need to look to a future beyond rugby”.