Just in

A weekly round-up of sorts

The Rust sports department unashamedly reports from time to time upon its pet campaigning topics – this year performance-enhancing drugs (as usual); gender issues; athlete-health/welfare; aspects of sporting ‘business reality; and just corruption generally – and therefore today makes no apologies for the following:-

PROFESSIONAL CYCLING (FROM THE “WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED?” FOLDER)

News reached us overnight that former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman will be facing interrogation at a General Medical Council hearing next month about his weird behaviour in 2017 when asked to explain his involvement (if any) in ‘odd’ testosterone purchases, suspect ‘jiffy bags’, together with him suddenly succumbing to an illness that meant he couldn’t appear before a British Cycling tribunal to answer questions about his poor medical record-keeping.

See here for reports upon the development from, firstly, Matt Slater on the website of – THE INDEPENDENT;

and secondly, from Sean Ingle on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

THE ETERNAL SPORTING DILEMMA

With the Olympics and football way out in front in terms of global revenue-generation, those involved in the administration and development of every sport known to man – some already with a global reach, others perhaps not so well-endowed, but trying – are constantly seeking to devise plans to ‘take their wonderful pastimes’ to the world without actually also ‘selling their soul to the Devil’ in the process.

It is not hard to understand why – after all, one of the central themes of all elite sports is the constant quest to improve and thereby become more successful.

And also not to rest upon one’s laurels, on the basis that everyone else will always be striving to improve incrementally every season and therefore – even if you won the league, or the major tournament of the year, last season – ‘standing still’ is not an option.

Any winner who settles for simply trying to replicate what they did last season will actually, by definition, be going backwards in the next one.

And so we find sports such as cricket and rugby union getting in a right old state (and their knickers in a twist?) as they frantically strain to remain relevant and/or reach new potential audiences, fans and business opportunities around the world.

Here’s a report by Andy Bull into the England & Wales Cricket Board’s latest plans – in a 21st Century where the bite-sized 50 over and T20 versions [we oldies might characterise them as hit-and-giggle cricketing versions of baseball] are attracting huge worldwide audiences, not least in the Sub-Continent, whilst the 4-day (let alone Test cricket) varieties seem at risk of being left behind in nostalgic by-waters – as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Meanwhile – in English rugby union – the £200 million deal whereby private equity firm CVC, already a stakeholder in Formula One, has bought a 27% share of the English Premiership entity is already causing ripples and/or concerns in several quarters.

Firstly, there’s no way (some say) that CVC is content just to be a sleeping partner. Like all venture capital organisations, it buys into projects that it thinks are under-marketed and/or a relatively cheap picking that – with a little effort and luck – can be revamped and turned into a mega-bucks hit.

Accordingly, a renewed call from Premiership Rugby for and ending to promotion and relegation was only to be expected at some point – albeit that the speed with which its latest manifestation has arrived is eye-watering – even though the chance (however conditional and difficult to achieve) for any club in the land to aspire to elite greatness has hitherto always been one of the sacred cows of the sport of rugby union in England.

Still, that’s never halted progress, has it?

See here for a piece by the always-excellent rugby correspondent Chris Foy that appears upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

PLAYER WELFARE

And on the subject of rugby union, recent reports upon the health & welfare attrition rate in the elite game are disturbingly familiar and consistent.

Last week stories hit the press that the brutal training regime of England head coach Eddie Jones has caused a five-fold increase in long-term injuries to England international players.

Last weekend it was reported that young tyro England flanker Sam Underhill of Bath – who had long spells out last season with concussion – is now out for the entirety of the Six Nations season with ankle ligament damage that required surgery. The breakdown is one of the most fiercely-contested areas in rugby union and it is well-known that those who ply their trade there are likely to have short careers and suffer from regular niggles. The tragedy for someone like Underhill, a potential great at his skills, is that at 22 he is barely upon the threshold of what could be an illustrious career and he’s already spending more time off the field than on.

In the past eighteen months giant Saracens and England Number 8 Billy Vunipola has missed a lot of rugby due to breaking one arm twice and the other once.

He recently returned to action with his club after a delayed return to playing because it was suspected (probably correctly) that the arm he re-broke was in part caused by an attempt to return before he was quite ready to do so.

Now we learn that talismatic Bath and Wales Number 8 Taulupe Faletau – who also missed the autumn internationals campaign due to a broken arm – and who apparently played a stormer in his club return to action last weekend against Wasps in a European Champions Cup game, broke the same arm again in that game.

You can call this bad luck all you like, but it is difficult not to form an impression that the rugby authorities have not made much progress in fulfilling their promises to put player welfare at the top of their agenda.

See here for a Press Association report that appears today on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts