Less than six months after those amazing Olympics ended, the reputation of top level sport is at its lowest ebb. Sport collectively is in desperate need of a sustained PR plan to restore our faith in what used to be a noble cause.
There is no greater advocate of sport than myself. I’ve played, coached, refereed and volunteered for over 30 years. I’ve spent literally hours daydreaming about one of my kids scoring in the World Cup final, or winning at Wimbledon. Yet, after the drug revelations of recent months, twinned with Europol’s latest pronouncements about match-fixing in football, even I’m questioning whether it’s something I want my girls involved in.
For me, sport has always been about the glory. I remember those triumphant moments when Brian Kilcline and Dave Beasant lifted the FA Cup above their heads every bit as fondly as Keith Houchen’s diving header and Lawrie Sanchez’s flicked winner*. Can I really advocate my youngsters pursuing a path where their dreams could be dashed by a bookies’ bung, or because (I hope) they say ‘No’ to a doctor’s needle.
Sport needs a credible plan to show us that what we are watching, cheering, living, is the real deal. Governing bodies needs to work collectively to address the sins they are all suffering. They need to demonstrably throw serious resources at rooting out these evils, show us their efforts are working, and let us believe again that our heroes are genuine.
Coming from Sheffield, I spent much of last summer thinking how great it would be if one of my daughters could follow in Jessica Ennis’ footsteps. Sadly, I don’t want them to now. I’ve still got enough belief in me (maybe misplaced) that, in a skill sport, ability and endless practice can overcome the medicine bottle. But pure speed or power sports like athletics, cycling and swimming? I’m just not sure what I believe any more.
*Youngsters among you should consult the stories of the 1987 and 1988 FA Cup finals.