If we cannot believe in a classical violinist turned Olympic skier after six months training aged 35, in what can we believe? We live in a cynical world. A cynical world.
Vanessa Mae assures us it is all nonsense, this ban and these suggestions that the races that sent her to Sochi were manipulated. But for how many famous millionaires is the dream of going to an Olympics as a “last-minute kind of thing” now dead? At least controvassy keeps her name out there, lest any more work fiddling at birthday bashes for human rights offenders should crop up.
The kind of profile boost not many female Olympians can hope for, mid-four-year cycle, confirms new research at Leeds Trinity University. Titled “The Invisible Woman?”, the report finds no lasting increase in UK media coverage of women’s sport since the London Olympics, despite the promised ‘gender revolution’ and the buzz then around Jessica Ennis-Hill, Victoria Pendleton, Nicola Adams and the rest.
There will be no need for this kind of divisive analysis here, thankfully, when the day inevitably dawns that Vincent Browne assumes his natural role as our dictator.
“I don’t understand why women don’t play soccer with men,” announced Vincent on his TV3 show during the week, having watched Stephanie Roche’s goal for Peamount that has been shortlisted for Fifa’s goal of the year award.
One day, Vincent’s discounting of testosterone-related advantages may well prove a decisive weapon in the war on doping, but for now Roche’s place in the company of James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie will be all too brief.
But even as we chuckled this week at Fifa’s attempts to clear itself of vote rigging and attendant chicanery, it was heartening to watch the nation go to work with such enthusiasm to rig a Fifa poll.
I have voted several times myself, of course, and you should too.
Alas, for women’s football, as it awaits the Vincentian amalgamation, this kind of attention can be short-lived, as Time Person of the Century contender Ronnie O’Brien will attest.
Almost as aspirational as Vincent Browne this week are the forward-thinking folk at HSBC, whose new advertising campaign to tie in with its global sponsorship efforts tells us that golf is “Anyone’s Game.”
A welcome follow-up, certainly, from recent unfortunate accidents that made it anyone’s bank, notably the choice financial services provider of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. The ad depicts the game being played around the world, on mountain-tops, fishing jettys, inner-city roofs and on the grass median of a busy dual carriageway. There are even one or two women involved.
It is a departure, this enthusiasm for sport “without the elitism”, from an institution latterly eager to align itself with the “rich heritage” of the Lions. Though there may be an implied subtext that some of the people depicted need not worry about unaffordable club memberships when they can always play at the side of the road.
But the overall sentiments are sound. A fresh blow to the 15% of Royal & Ancient members who stayed strong, in September, under pressure to regard women as equals. And a boost, no doubt, to the women of a Western Australian club bringing a sexual discrimination claim in a bold bid to play golf on Saturdays.
A mixed week, then, for women in and around sport, but the darkest cloud hung over Bramall Lane, after Sheffield United allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans return to training.
A curious case this one. Ordinarily, in a sport as cynical as football, this would never have got as far as ideological discussions about a criminal’s right to redemption.
A cynical football club would have foreseen the hassle involved, weighed up the likely benefits a middling, out-of-shape, lower-league striker would bring and made their excuses.
“The manager felt it would prove a distraction from our promotion push,” is usually how it goes.
After all, there are no Football League clubs offering Evans’ co-accused a home on rehabilitation grounds. The acquitted Clayton McDonald is at non-league Southport.
But maybe we see something else at play in some of the reactions from within football.
On Newsnight, FA chairman Greg Dyke played down the importance of the matter.
United manager Nigel Clough insisted it wasn’t “at the top of our priorities”, what with that promotion push to consider and four games in 10 days.
The outcry at Evans’ return isn’t exclusively female, by any means, but it could be seen to be predominantly so, including a notable objection from Ennis-Hill, whose name is on Sheffield United’s stand.
Perhaps an industry accustomed to invisible women, who don’t hog the headlines too long, feels, if it prevaricates enough, disquiet will just melt away.
Maybe Jerry Maguire underestimated the cynicism.
We need have no great worries for Sepp Blatter after another week of the cut and thrust. The big man has seen off more imposing foes, in his time, than an investigator into Fifa challenging the findings of his own investigation.
It will disappoint Sepp, of course. Having recently commissioned and funded a movie based on Fifa, which turned out to portray Fifa in a fine and generous light, including a moving portrayal of Sepp himself fighting rogue forces of greed for the good of the game, Sepp had only just learned to trust again, to believe there were creative people out there capable of seeing the world as Fifa sees it.
“The slightest breach of ethics will be severely punished,” Tim Roth, as Sepp, assures us in United Passions. So it will have hurt Sepp, given his regard for ethics, if his own ethics guy had to make, for the good of football, some slight changes to the findings of an external ethics investigator.
But it is only a small problem. And Sepp will overcome it. He certainly has no match in the English FA, who may need to stop half-heartedly playing ball by Sepp’s rules and actually take their ball home again to get anywhere. They could start by abandoning Greg Dyke’s stated plan to win the 2022 World Cup and become the first country to stand up for something – notably the estimated 1000+ workers already dead – and pull out of it instead.
Has admitted to nobody yet that he had to be dragged to San Sebastián, unsure of what to wear and with the blood draining from his face. Real progress.
After the success of distraction tactics ahead of Gibraltar and Germany, the pressure was on Roy to keep supplying sideshows. Frank lent a gallant hand.
At least the ones on Twitter, who seem to be taking the latest crisis particularly badly. Take this classic exchange. Podolski10: “25 years ago today the wall came down that separated Germany until 1989: Germany, For better, United.” The obvious reply? “We just lost 2-1, show some respect.”