Wednesday 22 November 2017

From the stands: Money doping has distorted the pitch

DOPING, we know, earns the wrath of WADA and a two-year ban from your sport. Blood doping likewise. So what about the latest form of doping -- money doping? It's rampant in soccer, but authorities seem to lack the will to clamp down on it.

Two classic examples were in the news last weekend -- and, in both cases, the money dopers won crucial games.

The highest profile case was that of Cardiff City playing local rivals Swansea, both bidding for a place in the FA Premier League. Cardiff, thanks to astute money doping which landed expensive pairing Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey on their books courtesy of moneybags Manchester City and Arsenal, took the three points. Fittingly, Bellamy delivered the coup de grace with a spectacular goal.

In the same division, the extent of money doping was revealed by Hull City, when they loaned expensive midfielder Jimmy Bullard to Ipswich Town. Bullard, on Premier League wages of £45,000 a week, was loaned to Ipswich on the understanding that they would pay £20,000 of the £45,000 each week until the end of the season. Hull reckoned that would save them £320,000. So, Ipswich have a player on their books who is effectively being paid most of his salary by a Championship rival. That's money doping for you.

And it works, as Ipswich's form since Bullard's arrival indicates. In their last two League games -- both of which they have won -- Bullard contributed a goal in the first and laid on the vital first goal last Saturday.

The figures revealed by Hull makes one wonder what Manchester City and Arsenal are contributing towards Cardiff City's push for promotion.

Considering the impact players like Bellamy, Ramsey and Bullard are having in the Championship, it's a wonder that Cardiff and Ipswich's rivals aren't kicking up about this distorting of the pitch.

Perhaps it's time the English FA, or even FIFA, had a look at a practice that is manifestly unfair, especially to the smaller clubs.

* * * * *

THE club v county controversy of last week brought to mind a story we heard many years ago.

Longford and Westmeath met in a Leinster football championship game in the early 1960s in Mullingar on a day you wouldn't put milk bottles out, such was the ferocity of the wind and rain. As the teams marched round the field for the pre-match parade, the Longford goalkeeper said to his captain in front, "if you win the toss, are you going to play with the wind or against it?"

"Oh, against it," came the reply.

"Why would you do that -- look how strong it is?"

"Because it worked for us this morning in the Dublin championship."

* * * * *

THE legacy of Jack Charlton and Euro 88 was evident at the Aviva Stadium last Tuesday in the person of Republic of Ireland debutant Séamus Coleman.

Coleman was born in 1988, the same year when four men -- Garda Tom Calpin, PJ Fox, Arthur Keyes and Gerry McDermott -- decided to form the South Donegal Schoolboys League.

"Tom was the driving force," recalled McDermott, now head of Domestic Affairs in the FAI, "and five clubs joined up, Ballyshannon, Kilbarron United, Donegal Town, St Catherine's of Killybegs and Ardara."

Killybegs lad Coleman became the first product of the league to make it all the way to full international honours last Tuesday. A proud day for Calpin and his merry men.

* * * * *

WORRYING news from Clare and a recent county board meeting where Wolfe Tones club delegates revealed that they'll be missing 11 of last year's squad, mainly due to emigration, for the 2011 league and championship.

The Shannon outfit worked with a squad of 25 last year but many of these have since opted to go abroad to find work.

As a result, 'Tones want to be withdrawn from the intermediate championship as they won't be able to field a team. It's a trend being reflected all over the country, alas.

Seán Ryan and Damian Lawlor

ssport@independent.ie

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