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The recent announcement that a years-long bribery investigation into German great turned administrator Franz Beckenbauer had been dropped by Fifa’s ethics committee was exactly the type of ‘news’ that has come to be expected from soccer’s global governing body.
Beckenbauer, once of Fifa’s all-powerful executive committee, was being probed by the body’s own ethics judges after allegations of suspect payments tied to Germany’s successful bid for the 2006 World Cup 21 years ago. Since the bribery case was opened against him in 2016, the World Cup-winning coach and captain had repeatedly refused to give evidence on medical grounds, with his lawyers insisting he was in no fit state to participate in ‘lengthy oral questioning or proceedings’.
In the ruling, Fifa’s ethics judges pointed out that Beckenbauer’s apparently poor health had not stopped him from appearing at public events, making speeches and giving multiple interviews last year, but they were nevertheless forced to close the case against the 75-year-old because a statute of limitations had expired.
As has been noted elsewhere, such time limitations on bribery prosecutions previously did not exist in Fifa’s ethics code but the rules were notably amended in 2018 to add a ten-year limit. The amenders of those rules? You guessed it: Fifa.
Lucky number sevens
Great Britain’s men’s and women’s Olympic Sevens squads have been announced, with the added news being that both will be on the same pay structure.
The move has been made possible by Great Britain Sevens’ (GB7) commercial partnership with the National Lottery, with a banded pay structure put in place to give equal opportunities to both men and women.
“We’re delighted to be able to confirm an equal pay structure up to the Olympics, and are, of course, grateful to the National Lottery for their fantastic support,” said team leader Charlie Hayter.
It is the latest example of financial parity for sport at international level in the UK after it was announced in September that England men’s and women’s senior soccer players were being paid the same match fee since January 2020.
Cult of personality
Political leaders are always anxious to leave a legacy and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has certainly made sure of that. His decision to rename the world’s largest cricket stadium in the western state of Gujarat has sparked delight and derision.
The first game at the 110,000-seater venue under its new moniker saw India dismantle England in the quickest Test win since 1935. Yet, amid all the talk of an unsuitable surface, the stadium’s true impact will be felt off the pitch.
Modi and his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have secured a second term in power with an increased majority in 2019, but naming a high-profile sports stadium after a sitting prime minister remains rare.
For Modi’s critics, the move highlights a cult of personality around the leader, as well as being an opportunity to revisit accusations of centralising power in the world’s largest democracy.
If you were wondering, the stadium was previously named after Sardar Patel, India’s first deputy prime minister. He also happened to be from BJP’s main political opponent, the Indian National Congress party.
Folding under pressure
The Vegas Golden Knights have put forward their entry for shortest sports sponsorship in history. After announcing a controversial partnership with UpickTrade on 23rd February, the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise called it quits with the Mexico-based betting tout operator just three days later.
News of the deal, which was believed to be the first between a professional sports team and a sports betting recommendation service, unsurprisingly drew instant criticism over concerns that the company would be allowed to sell picks to the team’s games, or that it could gain unfair access to injury or lineup information directly from the franchise.
That is even before considering some of the broader moral implications of such a deal, which are laid bare by a quick visit to the FAQs section on the company’s website. In response to one fairly important question – ‘What happens if I lose money?’ – UpickTrade reassures its users that ‘losing days are inevitable’, and reminds them to ‘remember this is a long-term way to make extra money’.
A UpickTrade spokesperson had fewer answers when quizzed by ESPN about the termination of the deal, telling the US outlet that “we are still in shock about the decision”.
Rogers Sports and Media, the Canadian media giant which owns Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Toronto Blue Jays, has confirmed that it is ‘streamlining’ its team broadcast operations, killing the radio feed and replacing it with a simulcast of its TV feed. Given the vagaries of radio and TV broadcast, it seems an ill-thought move at best.
According to Rogers, the changes are being made in order to ‘minimise travel’ and ‘closely adhere’ to Covid-19 safety protocols. As the team is planning to split playing its 2021 home games between Florida, Buffalo and perhaps Toronto (regulations permitting), the rationale would at least appear to make sense. Or at least it would if local radio and TV broadcasters across MLB were not working from home facilities for ALL games.
Last season, all Blue Jays games, including ‘home’ games in Buffalo, were produced from Toronto. Roger that.
Lost in the edit
Twitter is making some changes. At its recent Analyst Day, the social media platform announced that it will soon be letting users charge followers for access to additional content, as well as the ability to create groups based around specific interests. Plus, in a bid to tackle the abuse that continues to be a plague on the service, Twitter is also introducing a ‘safety mode’. This all sounds great, but it is 2021 and you still cannot fix a typo on a platform that is built around words.