Tuesday 17 October 2017

Sport's wiseguys make a killing on global scale

Former president of the IAAF Lamine Diack is being investigated for allegedly accepting payments to defer doping sanctions against Russian athletes
Former president of the IAAF Lamine Diack is being investigated for allegedly accepting payments to defer doping sanctions against Russian athletes

Eamonn Sweeney

Sports fans of my generation grew up on tales of the mobsters who had once controlled professional boxing in the US. Friends of the Italian opera with names like Blinky and Champ fixed bouts, decided who got to fight for the title and made a bundle into the bargain. Distance lent these stories a certain enchantment. That kind of stuff seemed to have joined prohibition, the 78 and Cinerama in the dustbin of history.

Little did we know. Because the news that Lamine Diack, who was president of the International Athletics Federation just a few months back, is being investigated by the French police on charges of accepting enormous bribes to cover up doping offences, following on the multiple arrests of FIFA top brass. Assuming the charges are proven, it would suggest Blinky, Champ and their buddies were only in the ha'penny place by comparison.

Their power was local, after all, whereas today's sporting crooks appear to have been functioning on a global level. It's one thing to own a piece of a fighter but much more impressive to practically own the sport.

I suspect future generations will be puzzled as to how the world's most popular sports fell into the clutches of men you wouldn't trust to mind your coat without going through the pockets.

Being a sports fan right now is like being a native of some Sicilian village where the Mafia's writ runs absolutely. Questioned by outsiders about the situation we can only shrug our shoulders and mutter something about how it doesn't really concern us. We just watch the matches and mind our own business.

You could of course object that unlike the traditional Mafia, sport's new mobsters haven't killed anyone. Haven't they? There will be hundreds if not thousands of dead immigrant labourers in Qatar because the World Cup was awarded to that despicable state under circumstances explicable only by reference to corruption.

Still, they apparently love the Irish in the Gulf states so why worry about a few hundred dead Indians and Nepalese? Aren't there GAA teams and everything out there? And haven't our politicians pretty much taken a decision not to say anything on the matter for fear of upsetting the locals? So we can all sit back and enjoy the first World Cup built on the bones of the dead. Blinky, Champ and the boys couldn't have been any more cold-blooded about their victims than we are about the dead in Qatar. But at least they weren't hypocrites about it.

Sunday Indo Sport

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