Drugs, Battery and Brawling, all fair game in Boxing

Boxing as a sport is never a pretty thing, two grown men slugging it out until one is declared the winner was never meant for the fainthearted.

The skill and finesse often outweighs the pain, with men like Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman gracing boxing rings all over the world and making names for themselves as idols, hero’s even inspirations.

 

This week however boxing has seen its public image hit the basement floor after three separate incidents have found their way onto the front and back pages of newspapers, each story showcasing a sorry state of affairs.

Floyd Mayweather, David Haye, Derek Chisora and Lamont Peterson are all big names in the sport, big names with a rap sheet as long as the inhabitants of Strangeways.

On Saturday night Mayweather was triumphant in his latest defence of the WBA middleweight championship against Miguel Cotto in what was generally regarded as a triumphant unanimous victory.

What was not triumphant was the background to the fight, which in many people’s eyes should not have happened.

You see the 35year old should not have fought, not because of injury but because of the fact that he is due to spent 90 days in an American jail after pleading guilty to battery and assault over a former lover.

Yes ladies and gentlemen the middleweight champion of the world has a penchant for hitting women.

What was more disgusting than the actual offence was the fact that on Saturday night the 35 year old, known in this country for beating an undefeated Ricky Hatton made just over $32million and is set to make more upon his release from jail when he gets in the ring with Manny Pacquaio.

A multimillion pound criminal, boxing’s public image can be heard nationwide in America scraping the floor.

Fellow American Lamont Peterson was also due to fight a big money fight in Las Vegas in June against Britain’s Amir Khan, until the Washington boxer was found guilty of steroid abuse on both the 13th and 30th of April.

Shameful, appalling and in any other sport worthy of a lifetime ban, but not the case in boxing it seems.

Rather than cancel the fight altogether organisers are still trying to get the go ahead for the box office smash against Khan with the decision now hinging on the Nevada State Commission’s ruling on whether Peterson’s license should be taken away.

Although it appears in some cases even when licenses are taking away boxing can still go ahead.

Take for example those two loveable rouges David Haye and Derek Chisora, two men who have previous with pudding regret after their brawl in a Munich hotel lobby.

In the aftermath of the brawl both David and Del Boy were suspended and their British boxing licenses taking away after both being interviewed by German police.

Step forward the Luxembourg Boxing Association who have kindly granted the two boxers fresh licenses, a decision which means the public will get what they want, or the promoters think they want, a grudge match staged at Upton Park in the summer.

You have heard of the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thriller in Manila, I officially name the Haye v Chisora bout the Luxembourg laughing stock.

It seems in 2012 criminals can become sportsmen and still make millions in the process, while the public perception of Boxing in both the UK and America has become a running joke.

 

 

 

 

 

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Olympic sized problems

With only 80days to go the anticipation for the London 2012 games is reaching fever pitch. With stadiums reaching completion, athletes well into their training schedule and tickets already bought the build up is about complete. While London is ready for the action, drama and intrigue the PR machine behind Seb Coe and the BOA is working into overdrive enabling the legacy of the games to be a success.

As with every PR campaign there are difficulties along the way, hiccups which have to be avoided and with the possibility of affecting the so called legacy before the games even starts.

London 2012 has had its fair share of hiccups, but with only a matter of weeks away three remain which could cast a significant cloud over the largest event this country has ever seen.

Dwain Chambers

Although it is unfair to cast Chambers as a villain, which some publications in this country never tire of doing, it is fair to say that his clearance to run in the games will cause the organisers many problems.

An athlete who was banned from the sport for the use of anabolic steroids between the years of 2002 and 2003 has now been given a lifeline, a lifeline which will more than likely see him run in the Olympic 100m, more than likely see him become the most successful British sprinter in London and quite possibly see him become the face of the games.

The face of the games, awarded previously to Kathy Freeman and Michael Johnson will be given to an athlete many people in the country don’t like, don’t trust and will not support.

Whereas Freeman and Johnson were given the accolade for all the right reasons, Chambers will surely be given it for the wrong.

Brash, cocky almost unapologetic he is the poster boy for cheats, a man on top of his game while under the influence.

In the Olympics where youth and talent has been celebrated, where Tom Daley and Jessica Ennis have already been tipped as medal certainties it may be that the lasting image is of a 34 year old, with no chance of succeeding, steals the show in the Olympic stadium.

Transport

Transport for the games was always going to be an issue in London. With millions of people expected to bombard the cities underground and bus routes and with the world watching the carnage of queues could be a nightmare about to unfold.

Many cities have previously excelled when it comes to Olympic overflow, Sydney was serene and Beijing bustled  but for many London will simply not deliver in what for many is an outdated traffic system.

With the Olympics in July and August preparations have already occurred in the capital with unconvincing conclusions and that was just in the test events.

The Wheelchair Rugby event in Stratford was disrupted by a 20minute delay on the Jubilee line and the shooting in Woolwich was described by one journalist as ‘an unfortunate place to stage a major sporting occasion, if only because there is no obvious way of getting to the barracks outside of a hopeful bus ride and a march through Woolwich’s residential thoroughfares.’

As well as the disturbances in and around London there has also been a great deal of problems concerning border control of late.

As many passengers arriving in England have been forced to wait in queues for up to 3 hours many are concerned what the ramifications could be come July when millions of people arrive at the countries airports.

Hardly what was hoped for in the lead up to the games and with limited time to change proceedings it could be one long queue of an Olympics.

London Riots

As much as it has been played down by organisers the London 2012 preparation was hit by events that occurred 12months before the games had even started.

The week of riots in August 2011 both shed London in the darkest of lights and created extreme doubt for the organisers.

Whereas the destruction and damage was drastic enough many were left wondering as to what would have happened if the riots had occurred at the time of the Olympics.

The riots created level of concern and asked a series of questions as to why the worst destructive violence for thirty years happened and why the threat was not eliminated sooner.

Although it is safe to assume that the riots will not be repeated come August the violence shed a darker light on what we assume is a city ready for the biggest global sporting event.

 

 

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The IPL money making machine V County Cricket

With the Indian Premier League now in its crucial, exhilarating, final stages, the money making Indian merry go round is hotting up on the sub continent with both the teams and their millionaire owners fighting for bragging rights in the sporting and commercial fields.

The Premier League itself shows just how far cricket has come in the last decade or so. Gone are the days when test matches were the only form of the game. Limited over’s cricket is now where the money is at in the sport and in most cases what the fans want.

The shift from a sport which relied on defence has now been turned into an all out attacking free for all involving some of the most talented names in the sport.

 

Names like Adam Gilchrist, Cameron White and Virender Sehwag who have all signed up for another season of IPL along with English talent such as Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright all staking their claim as lucractive cricketing talent in the millionaires playground.

The biggest change in the sport however is not the radical format shift but the money that is now involved in one of the more traditional sports.

The IPl is worth big bucks, a vast money making, PR driven machine with serious backing from some of the world’s richest men. Men like Murkesh Ambani, Vijay Mallaya and Shahrakh Khan, men responsible for the booming Indian economy of the 21st century.

For them the IPL isn’t just about excitement and drama it is about profit, a business enterprise which involves some of the most talented superstars in the game as essentially employees welcomed aboard the gravy train.

Lets look at some facts involved in the IPl.

Brand value estimation $3.67billion

Average Salary of an IPL player over the space of a year $3.84million

Television rights $1.6billion over a period of five to 10 years

Official umpire partner (Kingfisher Airlines) $21.5million deal

Simply astronomical figures, especially when you put into consideration that the brand value of the clubs in the IPL can range from $33.78million (Rajasthan Royals) to $85.13million (Chennai Super Kings).

Money which is lost on the English County Cricket scene, a competition currently playing second fiddle to the Bollywood bowling and batting in the sub continent.

Falling attendances, limited television coverage and press as subdued as the average county cricket goer. It seemingly suggests one thing as one competition prospers another falls further into the echelons of mediocrity, without a world class star to compete with the hat full in the IPL.

Cricket is simply not worshipped in this country as it once was, county cricket the pillar of a local community is now a side show to Premier League’s both here and abroad.

Grounds with more spare seats than spectators are of stark contrast to the IPL where fans cram in, often filling stadiums to capacity, while others watch in their millions on TV.

But what needs to change for that level of excitement to return to these shores, the answer in my eyes is money and exposure.

The IPL is profiting from the rise of the Indian economy, a country officially the 11th richest in the world by nominal GDP and the third largest by purchasing power parity whereas Britain is starting its second spell in recession and is currently transfixed in sports such as football, rugby with snooker and darts showing larger audience figures than most cricket matches.

Promoters like Barry Hearn has transformed sports in this country and until someone with the same amount of ideas do the same to county cricket it will fail in comparison to the IPL.

Next time you watch an IPL match it is worth thinking about when the last time you watched your local cricket team.

The handful can hold their head up high, while the others will squirm beside their plasma TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barry Hearn – The PR Guru of Parlour Sports

As Ronnie O’Sullivan lifted his fourth Snooker World Championship on Sunday night one man was seen smiling in the background of every shot, bathing in the plaudits of what has been another successful tournament under his supervision.

Barry Hearn is his name and he is the promoter of snooker and darts in what has been a boom period of both sports.

Delight: Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates his victory with his son

Bringing parlour games back in to fashion and putting them well and truly in the limelight, holding as much prevalence on TV schedules as football, rugby and cricket, all in a day’s work for such a savvy businessman as Hearn.

One of Hearn’s biggest achievements to date is the Premier League series of both snooker and darts, taking both sports on the road to venues such as Plymouth, Aberdeen and Newcastle, venues with diehard fans who revel in the shorter format of both traditional sports.

Hearn has overseen so much change that some have criticised the sheer cheek of it, while others have fallen in love with the new sparkle in what used to be seen as very one dimensional sports.

Girls and boys have been introduced and come accustomed to such phrases as oche, baulk and 9 dart checkout and venues have been sold out all over the country for each leg of the Premier League rollercoaster.

But the rock and roll lifestyle is not for everyone. Hearn has been criticised by a whole host of professionals in both sports and most recently by Mark Allen the Northern Irish Snooker Player who likened the game in 2012 to being on a treadmill, only stopping when the paying public has had its fill.

Exhausting and time consuming it may be, but under his tutelage snooker has cracked markets Steve Davis, John Virgo and Ray Reardon could only imagine including Scandanavia, Russia and most importantly the Far East.

China is now one of the best represented countries in the locker room with players like Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo regularly competing in the upper echelons of tournaments while nearly a quarter of tournaments are played in the Orient.

 

The Success of both sports hasn’t just seen participation from more countries thanks to the savvy promoter but can also be measured by the sheer amount of money which has come in to both sports over the last decade.

Prize money for the World Championship of Darts has now risen to over £1million while Hearn himself has vowed to make every snooker player competing in the biggest tournaments a millionaire after bringing the sport in line with the earnings seen on the tennis and golf tours.

He may not be liked by the locker room, he may not be trusted but Barry Hearn, like so many great PR guru’s has seen his vision of a company grow and grow. He has been bold in his tactics i.e. shorter formats and half naked women accompanying stars through the crowd and delivered on his ultimate objectives of taking two sports from the doldrums and made stars out of mere mortals.

 

10 years ago no one had heard of Phil the power Taylor, now he is on the shortlist for sports personality of the year every December.

Darts and Snooker fans have never had it so good, whether the players like it or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wrong Man for the right reasons

When Roy Hodgson was named as the heir apparent to the England job at the weekend many stood aghast.

Hodgson after all was not the man many want as England manager ahead of the Euros, just over a month away.

A man with experience, but little pizzazz, a man still haunted by his Liverpool failings and more importantly a man who is not Harry Redknapp.

The question remains why the FA did not go for the Spurs manager and for many the answer is simple, money. Since the debacle of the Fabio Capello tenure the FA have seemingly had it with big money gestures and overzealous spending.

The reported £1.5 million in compensation that was given to the former manager was indeed ridiculous and the FA has cut costs sevenfold with his successor.

Hodgson will not be cheap, a reported £3million a year contract plus bonuses has been pencilled in, but the West Bromwich manager is out of contract and will be there’s for free, unlike Redknapp who is in the middle of his Spurs deal and could cost another arm and leg in compensation to the North London club.

But will cheap cut it in the world of International management. Will Hodgson be able to acquire the man management of a team in the doldrums in six short weeks, will the 64 year old be able to replicate the limited success he achieved with Switzerland and Finland and will he be able to win over a media seemingly in mourning over the bypass of Redknapp.

The question I would like to put into focus is whether Hodgson is good or bad PR for the FA, an organisation obviously scared of a big money fiasco like Capello and Eriksson.

Surely if big money was on the table Redknapp would be the obvious candidate with Mourinho, Guardiola and Wenger not far away.

Perhaps in the FA’s eyes the smaller the price the more lenience they will gain with the press, who quite rightly have been on their backs since the World Cup in 2010.

In a week of such extraordinary comings and goings many will forget the job Hodgson achieved at Fulham, taking them from relegation candidates to within a whisker of European champions. He is certainly a man who deserves respect, but despite all this he was no one’s number 1 choice for the biggest job in English football.

Not one of his fellow mangers came out in support of Hodgson over Harry and the media had also made up their mind in favour of the Tottenham manager.

But what if it works, what if Hodgson is successful, what if heaven forbid England win a major championship in 2012 or 2014.

The PR for the FA will say he was always the number one choice, he wasn’t he was the cheapest option with the smallest risk factor, but when has that ever stopped a good story.

Good luck Roy you will need it

 

 

 

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Goal Line Technology – Are the FA and FIFA running scared

Goal Line Technology

This weekend saw another chapter in the ferocious goal line technology debate. The FA Cup Semi – Final, one of the most prestigious events in the footballing calendar was disrupted, like so many other football matches with a talking point which quite frankly won’t go away.

Chelsea’s second goal, in what was on paper an emphatic 5-1 destruction of local rivals Tottenham seemingly failed to go over the line after a strike by Spaniard Juan Mata leading to a volley of criticism at both referee Martin Atkinson and governing bodies the FA and FIFA for ignoring the technical advances of the game.

 

Goal-line technology edging closer

 

Technology, which has been tested with sustainable regularity and would be readily available in no time at all has been talked about for nearing a decade now with no definite plans to change the face of football for what many people believe to be the better.

Sunday’s game will certainly make believers in many after calls for the goal line technology from both Tottenham and Chelsea camps.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, captain Ledley King and their counter parts John Terry and Roberto Di Matteo all called for radical changes to be made after the Wembley debacle.

Perhaps the most outspoken was the man who it has become clear stopped his teammate’s goal from going over the line John Terry.

The Chelsea defender got a lucky break yesterday, after the goal was given but has been on the wrong side of the goal line technology debate on many occasions in the past.

“I thought it hit me and stayed out but I haven’t seen it on the replays – We’ve been calling for goal line technology for a long time – lets hope the people make the right decisions.”

For all the frustration in mistakes like the one made yesterday there is the opposite angle to the debate. The angle which doesn’t think technology can heighten a traditional game where mistakes are made and moved on from, where decisions seemingly even themselves out over the space of a season, despite the fact that clubs have been relegated because of the lack of video replays and goal line detectors.

Perhaps one of the biggest examples of this is in major tournaments where the structure of competition is that short that big decisions are often not neutralised later in the campaign.

Who can forget the World Cup in 2010 with Frank Lampard or more controversially Geoff Hurst in 1966 where decisions made on instinct affected the most high profile of games.

The idea of traditionalism seems a logical reason why Goal line technology has not been introduced until you look at different sports which have undergone drastic transformation.

Cricket, Tennis and Rugby League, all created and cherished in this country have all benefitted from some sort of technology, be it for wickets, net calls or over the line decisions. In fact football is becoming a minority when it comes to technological enhancements.

The reason I have highlighted goal line technology as a PR debate is why I believe it has not been introduced into the game and that is fear.

Fear that the technology could become difficult and not enhance the game in the way many have predicted. The signs for GLT are good, and demonstrations of the concept have been proven to show clearly whether a ball has crossed the line or not.

But until the technology works in a real time environment with everyone expecting a decision the success cannot be monitored.

Imagine the bad press if the goal line technology hampers a decision, or makes the wrong one. Traditionalist will be just as critical as believers; the press will yearn for the good old days when England won the World Cup thanks to dodgy refereeing and dodgy refereeing alone.

The debate will rumble on, but will the FA or FIFA listen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kenny Daglish – From PR dream to PR nightmare

Kenny Daglish – From a PR dream to a PR nightmare

14 months have passed since Kenny Daglish, the saviour of Liverpool returned to his faithful Anfield after 20 years away.

When he first arrived back the fanfare in Merseyside resembled a God returning to his faithful followers, a King resembling his troops after victory in the crusades.

What this past year and a bit has shown is that Daglish is merely human, lacking results and guiding Liverpool to their worst home form in half a century, a club currently languishing in 7th place.

The Scots transfer dealings have also been called into question with a growing list of high profile flops scrambling for form and failing to deliver on the big stage.

The likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam were brought into the team for a push for the Champions league places, but instead have found themselves fitting into a mid table team, not what anyone had in mind.

The £35million purchase of Carroll imparticular illustrating how the Scots dealings in the transfer market have been far from successful.

If this was any other club, or if Daglish was any other manager, alarm bells would have been raised, and the writing would have definitely been on the wall but being the way it is there is one significant stumbling block.

King Kenny is a demigod to Liverpool supporters; he is a symbol of hope, a picture of greatness, a PR dream in his playing days, Mr Liverpool.

In fact in a career at Anfield spanning 13 years, the scot scored 118 goals in 355 matches and captained his team to a host of domestic and European honours.

He was what Michael Jordon was to the Chicago Bulls, or what Babe Ruth was to the New York Yankees, a man who will live in the memory whose legacy will never be clouded.

However that was a player, as a manager Daglish is rapidly becoming a laughing stock. Loses to relegation threatened QPR and Wigan Athletic have showcased a managerial ineptitude which threatens to derail any hopes Liverpool has of domestic success.

Yes they recently won the Carling Cup, but in the final they were outplayed by a Cardiff City side struggling to get out of the Championship and only eventually succeeded after a penalty shootout in which they looked like losing.

The PR personnel at Liverpool will struggle to come to terms with this, but at this point in time Daglish is doing the club a huge disservice, no one in the business will see him as a success or his transformation of the team as a success. In my eyes he has taken a middle of the road team and created ….. a middle of the road team.

But in some quarters he is still that PR dream, a man who can bring success back to Liverpool the way he did as a player.

Clouded Judgement, deluded fans, a PR nightmare.

Why a nightmare you might ask, because he is indispensable, not because of his form or his aura in the dressing room but simply because he is a club legend who the directors of the club will be scared to let go in fear of the backlash it will create.

His face, like Steven Gerrards will sell out tours of Asia, Scandanavia and America and in a business sense he pushes all of the right buttons, shame that success can’t be carried into form on the field of play

Liverpool FC relegation fodder reads the headline, but Kenny is still backed reads another, the commercial PR driven footballing world gone mad.

 

 

 

 

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