Ah sport, we still love ya

Date: January 1, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

blatter 1Some of the biggest sports in the world could borrow from the Queen’s phrasebook and use annus horribilis to describe their 2015.

FIFA and the IAAF – the world governing bodies of football and athletics respectively – have both limped to New Year’s Eve.

The reputations of both have been sullied by scandal of the highest order.

Football’s trials and tribulations eventually went all the way to the top with its longstanding president, Sepp Blatter banned from any involvement with the sport for a period of eight years – which at 79 years of age is in essence a life ban.

Frenchman Michel Platini, the head of UEFA, the sport’s most powerful and influential continental association, was also slapped with an eight-year ban for corrupt activities.

Had that not occurred it was likely that Platini would have succeeded Blatter as the sport’s el supremo at the FIFA presidential elections set down for February.

The jettisoning of Blatter and Platini came after another 27 current or former football officials were indicted by United States prosecutors on allegations of corruption surrounding bribery schemes that were central to the awarding of TV rights for various football competitions.

The sport of track and field received equally bad press in 2015.

Investigations uncovered massive corruption within the sport, which was headlined by Russia’s systematic state-sponsored doping programme that operated in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

The Russian Athletics Federation was summarily handed a ban from all international competition, one that is likely to see it miss out on the Rio Olympics.

IAAF President Lamine Diack, who resigned in August, was subsequently charged with corruption by French authorities for allegedly receiving £745,000 to cover up positive tests by Russian athletes.

His successor, Sebastian Coe, who served as a vice-president to Diack for seven years, is also embroiled in the controversy with questions still swirling as to just when he became aware of his predecessor’s misdemeanours.

All in all, both football and athletics were shown to be rotten at the head.

Just how much of the body of both sports was infected is still yet to be fully determined.

The investigations will roll on; court cases will be head; appeals will be launched.

The breadth of scandal across both sports has seldom been seen.

Yet, do the average fans really care?

There was uproar globally when Russia, and more pointedly, Qatar were granted the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Australia committed $45m of taxpayer’s money and ended up with a solitary vote as tiny Qatar inexplicably got the nod for 2022.

But the animus soon subsided for sporting fans are largely a forgiving lot.

Broadly, supporters of football and athletics have been royally done over by a group of money hungry and power crazed individuals.

Russia will likely not be on the blocks at next year’s Olympics but the show will go on nonetheless.

And fans will pack out the main stadium – and part with large amounts of money for the privilege – to cheer on those that are allowed to compete.

Jamaican sprinters and Kenyan distance runners will no doubt be once again to the fore.

The fact that athletes from both countries have been embroiled in doping scandals in recent years will likely matter little as Olympic – and potentially world records – are lowered.

It seems that no matter what the level of corruption that befalls a sport, we the punters, seem to allow it to wash over us.

In the end, despite the many millions of dollars that have illegally flowed into the coffers of those who are there to act as the guardians of their sport, when the time comes for competition, all is seemingly forgiven.

It begs the question, are we too forgiving of those who brandish their authority with so little regard for their constituency – namely the participants and the fans?

Should we vote with our feet and simply turn our back on sports that have been sullied to a point where their entire credibility is highly questionable?

Or do we merely continue to follow the sports we love and simply wait for the next major scandal and somehow rationalise it as not really impacting on our viewing enjoyment?

Doping on an industrial scale at the Tour de France has done little to dampen the size of the annual TV audience.

We may have questioned the legitimacy of what we were watching, but watch it we did, in our millions.

One wonders if a blow will ever be struck sufficient to have the fans simply walk away in exasperation and utter despair.

If 2015 is any indication, the answer would appear to be no.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 31 December 2015, soliciting 18 comments