Harrison to pull Beeb off ropes
Sunday 15 October 2000
The BBC's Director General, Greg Dyke, loves his boxing, so it is no surprise that he sees the new Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison as the man to put the Beeb back in the big fight picture in the New Year, despite the boxer's admission of a criminal record. Dyke, who began in journalism as a freelance reporter covering amateur boxing at Hayes Town Hall in Middlesex for the old London Evening News (the then boxing correspondent Reg Gutteridge still reminds him that he used to be known as "Dyke of Uxbridge") has been in frequent telephone touch with Harrison and various promoters about launching Big Audley's professional career. The main obstacle is that Britain's leading promoter, Frank Warren, the favourite to sign Harrison despite overtures from two major organissations in the US, has an exclusive deal with non-terrestrial Sky. But sports nut Dyke and his new Director of Sport, Peter Salmon, formerly Controller of BBC 1, are hopeful that a two-year deal can be struck which will give them
The BBC's Director General, Greg Dyke, loves his boxing, so it is no surprise that he sees the new Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison as the man to put the Beeb back in the big fight picture in the New Year, despite the boxer's admission of a criminal record. Dyke, who began in journalism as a freelance reporter covering amateur boxing at Hayes Town Hall in Middlesex for the old London Evening News (the then boxing correspondent Reg Gutteridge still reminds him that he used to be known as "Dyke of Uxbridge") has been in frequent telephone touch with Harrison and various promoters about launching Big Audley's professional career. The main obstacle is that Britain's leading promoter, Frank Warren, the favourite to sign Harrison despite overtures from two major organissations in the US, has an exclusive deal with non-terrestrial Sky. But sports nut Dyke and his new Director of Sport, Peter Salmon, formerly Controller of BBC 1, are hopeful that a two-year deal can be struck which will give them prime-time rights to Harrison's live bouts with Sky allowed a delayed screening. It is an arrangement Harrison himself would favour because at this stage he feels it more important to get exposure to the widest possible audience, and only the BBC can provide that. Dyke, basking in the afterglow of the BBC's own Olympic triumph, believes Harrison could be the best thing that has happened to BBC Sport since Frank Bruno walked out on them leaving their screen totally blank as far as boxing is concerned for the past six years. Last week's revelations that Harrison, 28, had been a bad lad in his youth, being sentenced to 32 months in a young offenders' institution after an affray, among other misdemeanours, are unlikely to deter either the BBC or the BBB of C, though he will face the formality of a grilling from the Boxing Board stewards before being given his pro licence once he has recovered from a pending hand operation. Like the American Olympic heavyweight Michael Bennett, who was convicted of armed robbery, Harrison believes boxing helped straighten out his life. He now has a University degree and was smart enough to get his retaliation in first when getting wind of the fact that two Sunday newspapers, The Mirror and The People, planned to reveal details of his early abberations this weekend. He contacted The Sun. and made a clean breast of it, insisting a fee went to charity, and no doubt will enjoy a hero's acclaim when he appears as Warren's guest at the Wembley ringside next Saturday to watch Danny Williams and Mike Holden battle for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles he reckons could be his inside a year.
Why Adam seeks an Eve
The installation of a new England manager is not the only high-profile appointment on the Football Association's agenda at the moment. They are still seeking a media chief to replace the Steve Double, who departed soon after the arrival of new broom chief executive Adam Crozier. Former BBC political hack David "Soundbites-yer-legs" Davies, the ghost of Hoddle past, who, among other things operates as Director of Public Affairs, is keen that the six-figure salaried job should go to someone from the broadcasting world rather than newspapers, hence the interest in BBC men Garth Crooks and Rob Bonnet. But Crozier, to whom trendiness is apparently next to Godliness, would prefer to employ a spokeswoman in the role, in keeping with the FA's new-age image. Will Clare Tomlinson, Sky's lady with the thrusting mike, emerge as the compromise candidate? She did a good PR job with Arsenal and could be the one to spin the FA's yarn. Thus creating an interesting situation should her erstwhile paramour, Bryan Robson, become involved in the England management set-up.
Grid and grapple iron
America is bracing itself for the advent of a new sport, one that is designed to take the breath away, whether playing or watching. Extreme Football is to be launched on cable TV in the New Year by Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. Embracing all the niceties of the WWF it will feature a no-holds barred collision of might and muscle, permitting punching, stamping, head-butting, shin-kicking and even the occasional piece of blind-side gouging. Players and coaches are currently being recruited from the NFL. "It certainly won't be a sport for cissies," says a WWF spokesperson, explaining that the many hold-ups experienced in orthodox grid iron will be a thing of the past. The players will take their cue from ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) where real blood and gore abound and practitioners are encouraged to hurl each other through flaming tables and rake each other's skin with barbed wire.
Major influence on Lottery
So, was it simply a case of hitting the jackpot with the Lottery that changed Britain from wimps to wonders in four years? Not according to Frank Dick, the former national athletics coach and now a Mr Motivator in the world of sport and business. "Yes, money made a difference but if sport was only about having money tennis would be top of the pile," he says. "What happened was that some of the less successful sports had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps after Atlanta and come up with a world- class performance programme which meant having a business plan and putting it to proper use." That may be so but credit is also due elsewhere. It was the former prime minister John Major who brought sport and the Lottery together and the part he has played in constantly writing to Government ministers to remind them of their responsibilities to sport has certainly been instrumental in the decision of the so-called Sports Cabinet to ensure the continuity of Lottery funding at its present level.
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