Awards rivals in a battle of words

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The Independent Online

The charitable organisation that pioneered the sports world's "Oscars" has accused a commercial rival of trying to undermine its annual fund-raising event.

The charitable organisation that pioneered the sports world's "Oscars" has accused a commercial rival of trying to undermine its annual fund-raising event.

The World Sports Awards which will hand out its gongs on 16 January at the Royal Albert Hall, claims that the Laureus Worlds Sports Awards "has made attempts to dissuade sports personalities from serving on the jury of the Worlds Sports Awards Foundation."

Both bodies use panels of distinguished former sportsmen and women to choose their winners and the WSA believe that the LWSA is trying to stop big names appearing at both events. A spokesman for the WSA added that the LWSA "is seeking to undermine an event which has been set up to support the Olympic Aid organisation, which aims to build sports facilities to benefit 11 million refugee children."

All the proceeds of the WSA, which was founded by the former Austrian ski-jumper, Hubert Neuper, go to charity. The LWSA, which is run by Daimler-Chrysler (the parent company of Mercedes Benz) and Richemont (the parent company of the likes of Dunhill and Cartier) also gives money to charity but is fundamentally a marketing tool.

A spokeswoman for the LWSA, which will hold its own ceremony in Monte Carlo next May, said: "I think that the accusations being made about us are incorrect. We are most surprised to hear the World Sports Awards feel we're trying to obstruct or undermine their event. Any initiative to honour sporting achievement can only benefit sport and if they had any concerns about this they should have brought them to us first."

Several sporting personalities are in danger of being caught in the middle. Figures such as Sir Bobby Charlton, the former Formula One racing driving Niki Lauda and the former Olympic gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, are due to be judges for both organisations and could be encouraged to choose between the two while the celebrities nominated - David Beckham, Lennox Lewis, Steve Redgrave included - are likely to duplicated across both ceremonies and could also face pressure to choose.

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