Friday 30 September 2016

Television: It's The Great British Rake Off

* The Great British Bake Off (BBC1)
* Hidden Impact (RTE1)

Published 12/10/2015 | 02:30

Great British Bake Off finalists, from left, Ian Cumming, Nadiya Hussain and Tamal Ray sign copies of the Great British Bake Off book at Waterstones in Piccadilly, London
Great British Bake Off finalists, from left, Ian Cumming, Nadiya Hussain and Tamal Ray sign copies of the Great British Bake Off book at Waterstones in Piccadilly, London

We certainly marked your cards on this one....

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Which is an opening statement that will probably confuse some readers, because we have marked your cards on so many things.

But this time I am referring of course to the betting scandal around the final of the Great British Bake Off. Since the final was recorded a few weeks ago, more than 500 bets were placed on a particular contestant with a certain betting corporation which was offering odds. Most of the people placing the bets were not seasoned operators, but had reportedly opened accounts in order to have this particular bet. It was a classic case of our old friend, "unusual betting patterns".

It is thought that various TV people who were "in the loop" were using that information in order to enjoy the perfect betting experience - betting on an event to which the result is already known.

The betting corporation is claiming losses of £10,000, and complaining bitterly about "insider trading" -- you might call it the Great British Rake Off. But we're not sure how bitter they really are.

We have written before about the arrival of online betting into the arena of live TV entertainment, with punters now able to bet on shows such as The X-Factor or Strictly or even The Rose of Tralee "in-running", as they say. We believe that the betting corporations are very keen to get involved in these markets, because it gives them access to potential victims outside of the traditional areas of sports betting - women, for example, would be greatly prized.

But there's something odd about this one, because it does not involve betting "in-running", given that the show is pre-recorded. And knowing bookies as I do, I find it hard to accept that they would leave themselves open to a "touch" of this kind on an event which has already happened, and which was observed by many people - unless, of course, they were not too heartbroken to be taking a minor "hit" of 10 grand on this one, before shutting the market down and getting themselves a load of free publicity on the back of the final of one of the most popular TV shows of the last fifty years.

Or unless, of course, this was just some kind of a rumour that sort-of got out of hand, resulting in a load of free publicity on the back of the final of one of the most popular TV shows of the last fifty years.

One way or the other, yet again you can consider your card marked.

*********

And if you could bring that card over here again, I feel that there's a bit more marking to be done.

Hidden Impact was a documentary aimed at raising awareness of the problem of concussion in rugby. It was an outstanding piece of work and I could not recommend it more highly to anyone concerned with this matter.

But I kept thinking that there's another programme to be made here, one that is essential to the understanding of concussion in rugby and to a lot of other things about rugby too. It was alluded to in Hidden Impact with references to the large-scale use of "supplements" and nutritional aids of the most mind-bending variety, all of which contribute to a culture in which players are getting bigger all the time, with the result that collisions are getting more dangerous all the time, leading to more concussions, and worse concussions.

But eventually I think we will find that our old friends the "supplements" are themselves being supplemented in certain cases by more exotic substances. Already there is evidence that rugby union players are top of the list of sportsmen who are failing dope tests, and looking at some of the burly citizens to be found on our screens these days rucking and mauling, at times it is hard to believe that anyone is going to get out of this mess without serious injury.

So the problem of concussion is coming at the end of a chain of problems which start with this fundamental error - that size is everything, or at least it is the main thing. And so a programme about concussion in rugby, excellent though it may be, feels a bit like a documentary about cycling which suggests that the great malaise in the sport is the injuries they get from crashing.

You wouldn't start from there.

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