22nd February 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Keep politics out of sport

, by , in Sport

by JIM TAIT

WOULDN’T it be much better if politicians would stick to what they do best (or worst depending on how you view it) and stop meddling in sporting matters.

In case you’ve missed it, one of the hot topics of the day is whether or not Great Britain should enter a football team at the London Olympics in 2012.

Rabid nationalists in Scotland, not unexpectedly, immediately pour­ed scorn on the idea, protesting that if the Scots joined forces with England, Wales and Northern Ire­land for the tournament, it could jeopardise the position of the four independent UK associations with FIFA, privileges they have enjoyed since 1946.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith then waded in, making the point that a GB team would be dangerous, as other countries could begin telling FIFA that Scotland should not have separate membership. Is he serious?

Next we had the Labour Party claiming there had been a re­assur­ance from FIFA that the “gentleman’s agreement” (a concept usually regar­ded as unlawful) would be safe.

Who gave this reassurance? None other that FIFA president Sepp Blatter himself, no less. So it must be okay then.

What Labour appears to have missed here is that Blatter, however much weight he may carry in the world football governing organisa­tion, is in the grand scheme of things irrelevant. It is the members of FIFA who will ultimately decide whether the four home countries continue to enjoy independent status.

Whether or not a British football team competes in London in four years time is totally immaterial. It would be a one-off. In any case it is currently proposed that the team would be an under-21 or under-23 one, and everyone knows it would comprise 90 per cent of English players anyway.

Personally I have nothing against the idea, but if a full GB team were chosen today it is doubtful if any Scot, save for Craig Gordon and perhaps Alan Hutton, would be in the reckoning, and even more doubtful if anybody from Wales or Northern Ireland would make the cut.

Scotland competes individually as a nation in many other sports than football, and comes together with the rest of the UK when it is necessary.

And what about rugby? Do the nats think we should boycott the British Lions tour to South Africa next summer. No I don’t think so.

THE RECENT speculation that David Beckham might be in the running for a knighthood in the New Year Honours list is so ridiculous it may well be true.

Presumably this has come about because, firstly, Beckham is on the brink of passing Bobby Moore’s English record of 107 international caps for an outfield player, and secondly, he was crassly chosen to stand on a podium at the Olympics in Beijing.

Beckham may have been a sport­ing icon, but he has never been a sporting great. Sure, he was able to swing over a dangerous cross and hit an excellent dead ball, but he couldn’t head, run or tackle to save himself.

Many of Beckham’s international appearances, especially in recent years, have basically been cameos where he comes on for the the last few minutes and hardly gets a kick. The thought of him overtaking Moore, a real giant of a player, adds weight to the argument that the system of awarding caps needs looking at.

I would actually favour a method where a player only receives a cap if the match is designated a competitive one, thereby doing away with the absurd situation where as many as 20 players can be used in friendlies. People with nothing to prove are often thrown on for a short spell just to bulk up their appearances.

For Beckham to receive the same accolade as someone like Bobby Charlton, when real sporting super­stars such as Gareth Edwards, Tom Graveney, Ken Buchanan and Denis Law continue to be overlooked, leaves a huge lump in the craw.

THE SCOTTISH international rugby team has just suffered two defeats, but considering they were at the hands of the world’s best team and the world champions and the Scots should have won the latter of the two, distinct signs of a revival are appearing.

In the first match a fortnight ago Scotland were fairly comfortably beaten in the end by New Zealand, even if the 20-plus winning point margin did flatter the winners some­what. But the All Blacks were largely a second string, always des­perate to prove to the management they should be first picks.

On Saturday the 14-10 loss to South Africa, after leading 10-0 at half time, was much more of a disappointment, and the absence of Chris Paterson again highlighted just now important an accurate place kicker is.

But on the credit side, the Scots more than held their own in the scrum, a facet of their game which has been found wanting in recent seasons. Against world class opposi­tion, particularly in the front five, there was a home domination rarely seen before. And in tighthead prop Euan Murray and hooker Ross Ford, geniune British Lions candidates have emerged.

If the team can begin to turn pos­session into points, and the much-vaunted back row begins firing on all cylinders, the Scots could give a much better showing than previously expected in the forthcoming Six Nations Championships.

NEWS that Derrick Bradley and Neil Moncrieff have lost their jobs as Shetland under-18 football coaches, following an appeal on Wednesday evening, is a fairly serious milestone in the local game.

Bradley stated last week that he felt “underhand tactics” were being used, having earlier secured their position and held off a challenge from Ritchie Smith and Peter Moncrieff, and hinted at a Lerwick Rangers monopoly in junior circles.

Whatever you think of Bradley – he actually has an excellent record since taking up the post – it does seem strange that some people are hell-bent on ousting others from a position, while at the same time the Shetland Junior Football Association is struggling to attract committee members. Something appears to be badly wrong here.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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