Brian Barwick and the FA buffers are burying their heads as deeply in the Wembley mire as were the feet of England's players on Wednesday if they believe the Euro exit will not harm prospects of hosting the 2018 World Cup. Leapfroggers Russia, gifted a passage to next year's finals, will seize the opportunity to use their presence at the finals in Austria and Switzerland to press their own claim. Indeed, our Russian spies tell us that President Putin was "delighted" to see England stumble and has personally instructed his sports minister Vyacheslava Fetisov to "pull out all the stops" to secure 2018 for Russia. Former ice hockey icon Fetisov has many friends in Fifa, not least Sepp Blatter, and will ensure that Russia's candidature, to be confirmed shortly, will be the most serious challenge to England. It could also be significant that England's demotion to a second-class football power has not evoked much sympathy among the nations gathered in Durban for the 2010 World Cup draw. That "arrogant" reputation, highlited last week by the Croatians, remains hard to erase.
English role in Northern Ireland's sweeter FA
One Englishman in South Africa hoping a rival nation gets a better World Cup draw than England is former Wycombe goalkeeper Howard Wells, now enjoying considerable success as chief executive of Northern Ireland's FA, which he has helped transform from financial freefall. The team, who came as close as England to qualifying for Euro 2008, haven't done badly, either. Wells a former head of UK Sport and the CCPR, was shortlisted for the FA job when Adam Crozier was appointed in 1999 and could be ready for a return to a senior role in sports administration here.
Ohuruogu snubbed in IAAF awards
While it is likely that Christine Ohuruogu will get clearance to compete in Beijing after her appeal hearing by the British Olympic Association's independent panel tomorrow, it is by no means a racing certainty. Whether her lifelong Olympics ban is overturned may well depend on whether she finally admits she was at fault in missing three drugs tests. So far she has remained unapologetic for her forgetfulness. Could this be why, despite being named Britain's female athlete of the year and shortlisted in all the home sports personality awards, her name is not among the contenders for the prestigious IAAF world athletes accolades to be announced in Monaco tonight? Yet hers was one of the outstanding performances of 2007. Odd.
Boxing clever: More honours for the amateurs
A meeting between sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe and education minister Kevin Brennan has brought boxing closer to a return to the school gyms. Good news for a sport enjoying something of a renaissance. We report on page 79 that new world amateur champion Frankie Gavin, who leads England against the US in London on Friday, has committed himself to Beijing where, last week, heavyweight Danny Price won gold in an Olympic test event. And junior champ Scott Cardle, 17, from Lytham, has won the OCS award as the year's outstanding young sportsperson.
Row over 'guru' Woodward to be probed by parliament
Olympic chiefs face a grilling from a parliamentary watchdog body next week over the controversial role of Sir Clive Woodward in Britain's 2012 build-up. This follows criticism made to the DCMS Select Committee of his involvement as a "motivator" by two leading sports but these will be firmly rebuffed by the BOA.