Both feet in the rugby camp

Like the third round of the FA Cup and the Ashes test series, the Six Nation’s Rugby is one of those marquee sporting events that I have to mark on the sporting calendar.

But only because I want to avoid it.

I have a curious aversion to the game – and that is not fair on the game itself. As a sport, rugby can be intense, exciting and dramatic. It’s the fans I don’t like.

Perhaps that is harsh because the majority of fans are great – especially the Irish, the Welsh and Scots . It’s just the England supporters that boil my blood.

But it’s not all of them. Like the England football fans, where a minority are unbearable, there is a small group of national rugby fans who are so cringeworthy that I can only look at them through the cracks of my fingers.

And what it boils down to is whether you are in the rugby or the ‘ruggers’ camp. I know where I stand.

It’s the Toff Tofington crowd that I can’t abide, the fans who proudly sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot without knowing its roots in slavery and cling to the Calcutta Cup oblivious to its nod to the dark days of imperlaism.

Every rugby fan knows at least one supporter who fits the indetikit.

They are the fans who go to the pub in their replica shirts with upturned collars and loafers and loathe football for its “common” roots.

They pedal the myth that rugby is for thugs but played by gentleman, despite the spear tackling, the eye gouging and the arse poking in the scrum.

They treat rugby like a mark of class. A badge of exclusivity that separates the middle class wheat from the working class chaff.

At least you can watch football down the local, away from the hooray Henrys and Henriettas who are trying to seize the game for themselves.

I will be watching the weekend games but purely from the safety of my own home.

Then I’ll hold my breath before I have to go through it all again next year.


Just an average European nation

British sport officially died in London on November 25th 1953.

Prior to England’s football match with Hungary they had not lost a match against a team outside the British Isles at Wembley since 1901.

The visitors won 6-3 and, after such a loss, you would have thought that the misplaced belief of England’s tactical and physical superiority would have died that day too.

But it didn’t. More than 50 years on the ‘Rule Britannia’ mentality still lives on – and it is rife in almost all sports.

If we really that great we would surely have more than one football and one rugby world title to show for it.

And with the Olympic games just days away there is talk of Britain bringing home a record medal haul.

Aside from the talents of Colin Jackson, Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie there has been very few world class British athletes to shout about in the last 15 years.

Like most people I’m sick of pretending to be interested in rowing or the ‘brave’ efforts of Paula Radcliffe – who will probably quit again if she can’t make the podium.

For the first time in half a century let’s be honest about our prospects.

We won’t win the World cup.

We won’t win the Ashes

And we won’t bring home a sackful of gold medals.

It’s about time we accepted our true place in the sporting world as an average European nation and not a global superpower.

Ecclestone way off the mark on Hamilton abuse

It seems that Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has never been the victim of racial abuse because his comments on the recent treatment of Lewis Hamilton are woefully wide of the mark.

Hamilton was subjected to vile abuse by a small section of the Spanish crowd during testing with McLaren last month.

And Ecclestone has claimed that the FIA’s launch of an anti-racism campaign is unnecessary.

“All it does is give attention to people who want attention,” he told the BBC.

“I don’t think they’re fans, and I don’t think they were supporting [Fernando] Alonso in particular. They just like to abuse people.”

Ecclestone did claim, however, that if the incident occurred again than launching an official campaign would be worthwhile.

But why should Hamilton have to accept such treatment as “an isolated incident”.

The unsavoury scenario is unfortunately common across Europe’s sporting arenas, with the black players of both England and England under-21 football team subjected to taunts, as well as Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o.

This would never be allowed to stand in other aspects of modern living, such as the workplace, so why should our sports stars be expected to just shrug it off.

It is only when we firmly tackle racists that they will begin to understand that their behaviour is unacceptable.

Sotherton must realise it’s innocent until proven guilty

I used to have a lot of respect for Kelly Sotherton.

Despite British athletics being a bit of a joke following the retirement of Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell, I was happy to see Sotherton land her World Championship bronze and Jessica Ennis claim a credible fourth place.

But then came the bitterness – the athlete in the silver medallist Lyudmila Blonska had served a two year ban for drugs in 2003.

And this was Sotherton’s response: “She has cheated once, who says she is not cheating again?

“We’re not interested when she’s there, we don’t support cheats. It tarnishes our event and we don’t support it.”

Considering the state of British atletics with the Dwayne Chambers and Christine Ohuruogu debacle, such comments not only seem unbelievably bitter but also incredibly hypocritical.

It may yet turn out that Blonska fails a drug test. If that is the case then such comments can be made but not before then.

She did wrong and served her time and needs to be treated with a little bit more respect.

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

The only thing that Holyfield will defeat is his legacy

Why is that boxers don’t know the meaning of the word retire?

The way I always understood it was that when you retire you gave something up permanently

Evander Holyfield, at the age of 44, has been handed yet another opportunity to lace the gloves for a title shot against Russian WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov.

Not only is the situation farcical but it is also quite dangerous., the last time Holyfield ‘retired’ in 2004 it was only after suffering a beating at the hands Larry Donald. He was rightly suspended form boxing for medical reasons.

This isn’t his first fight since the Donald incident but I will be the first time he will actually be in a contest – and a potentially harmful one at that.

Most boxing fans will agree that one of the most magical elements of pugilism is its legacy.

Boxers are famous for the memories they have left behind, the legend outlives the man, but too often do boxers comeback for one last failed attempt at glory – just ask Rocky Balboa.

So I implore you Evander, pick up your dictionary and open it to the letter ‘r’.

Actually, I’ll save you the effort: “Retire – to withdraw from office, business, or active life permanently usually because of age”.

Cheating doesn’t end with the ‘Tour de Farce’

I always thought that athletics was the most drug ridden sport in the world but this week I had the chance to see some of the farcical Tour de France.

Cycling is a sport that commands endurance, speed – and apparently steroids.

However, while I was heaping scorn upon cyclists, especially Michael Rasmussen who was too cowardly to even take a drugs test, I began to think of examples of the dark arts at work in other sports.

In athletics Ben Johnson, Jason Gatlin and any Eastern Bloc women of the 1980s were doped up to the eyeballs.

Cricket, just wasn’t cricket, when Hanse Cronje was found guilty of match fixing and Michael Atherton caught ball tampering.

Horse racing is supposedly the ‘sport of kings’ but betting scandals are rife.

Formula One had Michael Schumacher the flawed genius with a penchant for rule bending and now it has wayward designers who deal in espionage.

Even the beautiful game is rotten to the core with diving, match fixing and bungs.

The beauty of sport is the thrill of competition but no-one likes an uneven contest especially if one party has cheated to gain that advantage.

What it comes down to is who has the guts to tackle the cheats?

Who will stand up to those that are ruining world sport?

Only the cycling authorities have the intestinal fortitude to tackle its demons and that puts it in a league of its own.

As funny as it seems other sports could learn from cycling – they should certainly sit up and take note.

I thought you had heart Jamie

Admittedly it’s not the the most topical football story but I am still in shock over Jamie Carragher’s decision to quit international football.

Personally, I think that Carragher is a good player, not great but good. Like many England internationals he is overrated but that is not really the point – my problem with Carragher is that he won’t play for his country because he is not a first team regular.

International football is supposed to be the pinnacle of a professional footballers career. Although the Champions League is probably of a higher standard, representing your country is supposed to be the gold standard.

So, Mr Carragher, upset that he is not better than John Terry, Rio Ferdinand or even a fully-fit Jonathon Woodgate has thrown his toys out of the pram and just quit.

Liverpool fans say that he has heart and passion – obviously they are wrong.