England v San Marino : A travesty of sport

England’s male football team are back in action on Thursday night but whatever you do, don’t bet on them winning. The odds at the bookmakers on an England win are 100-1 ON. That means to win £1 you have to risk £100. Even for something which is the nearest thing to a dead cert in sport it is not worth the effort.
The reason for it being a dead cert that England will win on Thursday is they are playing San Marino the worst team in the world. San Marino have never won in 113 competitive matches in the World Cup and European Championship qualifiers losing 111 and drawing 2. They have lost 64 competitive matches in a row and haven’t avoided defeat since 2001. The only question is how many England will win by. And that is not what sport should be about.
And San Marino are not an isolated case. There are a lot of “toy town republics” polluting football – very small nations who have little or no chance of winning. Another example is Andorra who have lost 45 qualifiers in a row and last avoided defeat in 2005. And UEFA – whose approach to new members reminds you of what the late Edna Krabappel said in the Simpsons when Bart’s class got a new pupil (in Episode 8F22 “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”) “Great. Just keep packing them in Seymour” – have added another useless new member. Namely Gibraltar – who lost their first competitive game 7-0 at “home” in Portugal – yes they don’t have a ground of their own – and are likely to be no more than another source of futile victories.
The funny thing is it is only in Europe this farce happens. In Africa, Asia, North America and even 11 member Oceania there is a preliminary round to root out the weakest members. So why does UEFA not have one? Answer: the tail wags the dog. Every nation has a vote -and there are 54 of them – which means the long tail of small nations wags the dog of the big nations and no call for a preliminary round would get a majority as it would be a case of “turkeys voting for an early Christmas” as was memorably said in another context by former UK PM James Callaghan. So what is to be done? The big countries must flex their muscles and say we will boycott Euro 2016 and al other international events until there is a preliminary round to weed out all the rubbish. And ITV who have to televise England v San Marino (good luck with that ratings turkey) and all other TV companies should say UEFA should not get a euro until the likes of San Marino are rooted out. If UEFA are threatened with the loss of TV money it would change their position. Besides the Euro 2016 qualifiers have eight groups of six teams and one of five. Get rid of eight teams and you have nine groups of five – fewer, more competitive games. And sport is meant to be exciting, competitive and unpredictable. The only thing unpredictable about Thursday will be how many goals England will score.
In contrast the baseball postseason has been magnificent providing great entertainment drama and unpredictability – everything sport should be. Eight of the first thirteen games have been decided by one run* and the unexpected has been common. Who’d have thought the As would blow a four run lead in the eighth with Jon Lester on the mound? Or the Dodgers would lead 6-1 with Clayton Kershaw pitching – and lose? Or that the first game of the 2014 World Series will be in either Baltimore or Kansas City? Who knows what twists and turns this amazing postseason will throw up next? The Nationals were 2-0 down to the Giants after two games(One of which was an amazing eighteen inning six hours plus marathon). They’ve pulled one back. It is quite possible that they will win the series 3-2 – as the Giants themselves did to the Reds in 2012.
In the baseball postseason anything can happen. In the England v San Marino game we know what will happen. That is why this game is a travesty of sport. It should not be taking place. And I won’t be watching it.
*Not counting game three between the Dodgers and Cardinals which I have Sky plused but not watched yet.

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