This has been a busy week in the fight against corruption and cheating in sport. In South Africa Gulam Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years (five of them suspended if he agrees to take part in anti-corruption education). Bodi who played three times for South Africa was famous for keeping Kevin Pietersen out of the KwaZulu-Natal team therefore (if the myth is to believed) causing the latter to emigrate to England in 2001. But now Bodi will be linked with corruption having admitted to “contriving or attempting” to fix matches in the 2015 Ram Slam, South Africa’s domestic 20 20 competition. His 20 year ban was his punishment.
Meanwhile in New Zealand a convicted cheat – Mohammad Amir of Pakistan – has been making his international comeback after being given a five year ban for spot fixing in 2010. His comeback has not been universally welcomed. Plenty of people thought he should have been banned from cricket for life and some of the crowds in New Zealand have booed him. More seriously the stadium announcer at Westpac Park in Wellington Mark McLoed was reprimanded by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for playing a cash register sound effect during one of Amir’s spells in the third 20 20 international. Amir can expect more of the same when Pakistan tour England in summer 2016 especially as England’s fans and press are more hostile to match fixers than their equivalents in other countries.
It is not just cricket though. This week UK Athletics are trying to ban first time drug cheats for life by making athletes waive their right to represent the UK if they are subsequently caught using performance- enhancing drugs. If they don’t they can’t represent the UK which is to my mind blackmail. Now the UK used to ban drug cheats from the Olympics for life but were forced to drop life bans when the courts ruled it illegal. Now showing breathtaking arrogance UK Athletics are using blackmail to bring life bans back. The Government should order the arrest of UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner and prosecute him for contempt of sport, hit UK Athletics with 83% tax and cut off funding. UK Athletics as like all sport shows total contempt for the law and should be forced to obey it by being hit in the pocket.
But not all sports bodies hand out draconian punishments. Also this week the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) took no action against Tyson Fury (see previous post “A Tale of Two Awards”) over his sexist and homophobic remarks – except to reprimand him. Yet if he had taken drugs or fixed a fight he would have been banned for years maybe for life.
Another example was convicted rapist Ched Evans who would have back in football after serving a two and a half year sentence but for public uproar. Yet the sentence Evans received was less than Amir and Bodi’s bans never mind the life ban UK Athletics wants. And if he had taken drugs or fixed a match the FA would have banned him for years maybe for life.
This is the hypocrisy of sport. What I would call crimes against sport (match fixing, drug taking) are taken seriously and produce long maybe even life bans while crimes against society (rape, sexism/homophobia, domestic violence) are treated as less serious. This reflects the dominance of old, white men in sport plus also the thought of sport that it is above the law and can do whatever it wants. Time for a change.
Despite what I wrote about UK Athletics I am in favour of drug cheats and match fixers being banned for life and the Government should change UK law if that is what it takes to make life bans legal. But in return sport should be forced to ban rapists, woman beaters and people who make sexist/racist/homophobic remarks for life as well. Most people who are not sport fans would regard rape and domestic violence as more serious as match fixing and drug taking. Sport should be forced to accept this. Until it agrees match fixers and drug cheats should not be banned for life if rapists and woman beaters are not.
It is fair to say it has not ben a good couple of weeks for America’s National Football League (NFL). Four different players – Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Roy McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer – face allegations of domestic abuse and a fifth – Adrian Peterson – faces allegations of hitting a four-year-old child. Some might say that is just an unlucky coincidence but they would be wrong. Since current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came into office in September 2006 there have been 56 cases of domestic abuse in the NFL. And what tough punishments have been dished out by Goodell in that time?. Answer: The 56 cases have been hit with a ban of 13 games between them. This does not include Rice who has been suspended indefinitely. One would think Goodell doesn’t give a toss about domestic violence but it gets worse. A video was released earlier this month of Rice abusing his wife his wife in an elevator. It has been revealed that this video was sent to the NFL in April – which if true suggests a cover up. Also Bill Simmons has been suspended from ESPN for calling Goodell ” a liar” Question: Why has ESPN suspended him? If what he said is not true Goodell could sue him. I just think the establishment are trying to turn the US into North Korea by not allowing criticism of Goodell. But as it is unlikely Goodell will read this I can say that Roger Goodell is a sexist scumbag who should be sacked from his £23.6 million a year job and replaced by Condoleezza Rice with the latter given a mandate to do to the NFL what Margaret Thatcher did to 1970s Britain – go through it like a dose of salts and impose sweeping changes.
For the fact is the whole culture of American football is sexist. Any sport that forces women to play it in underwear – the Legends Football League*(LFL) and forces its cheerleaders to take the “jiggle test” as members of the Buffalo Jills (yuck!) cheerleading squad have said – has serious problems. And the sport is an obstacle to gender equality in another way. This is because of the “money-eating monster” that is college football. Colleges are supposed to provide equal opportunities for women in sport under Title IX legislation. But as Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano point out (in “Playing With the Boys page 247) most US colleges don’t spend as much on all women’s sport combined as they do on football. As they further point out men are victims of this too. Colleges cut minority male sports and blame it on Title IX whereas the fact is as the book points out “They should blame football”. Quite why the NFL should have federal funding for what is in effect their minor leagues is a mystery. The law should insist that all colleges should spend the same money on women’s sport as they do on men’s. And if that forces college football to face a dose of George Osbourne style austerity – or even better forces its abolition – then so be it.
As a Brit what really concerns me is that the NFL also pollutes my own country. There is a NFL match in London tomorrow – Oakland v Miami – and two others during the season. There is even talk of an NFL franchise coming to London. That is totally unacceptable. We have more than enough problems with sexism in our own sport without importing an even more sexist sport from abroad. And if that is not bad enough the LFL is coming to Manchester next year. What is the UK Government doing about this? They should be telling the NFL that unless it cleans up its act – by sacking Goodell and introducing a minimum five-year ban for domestic violence as well as closing down the LFL which should not be allowed to exist at all never mind come to the UK – it will not be allowed to stage games here or even be on UK TV. (any UK fan who wants to watch it could still watch it online). The NFL is wallowing in a pile of sexist sewage. Until it cleans itself up it should have no place in the UK or on UK TV screens.
*This League used to be called the “Lingerie Football League” which is a truer reflection of what it is. it probably changed its name to try to con people.