Sven's men are not the only players who are "revolting". Their hockey counterparts are also threatening to down sticks in a dispute which could throw the troubled sport into even deeper disarray. We understand a communication has been sent to the reconstituted English Hockey Association requesting the removal of the head coach, Mike Hamilton. Seven internationals say they will refuse to play under him in future, complaining that Hamilton, who also doubles as the sport's all-powerful performance director and team leader/coach to both the England and Great Britain men's squads, is "aloof, a poor communicator and keeps changing his mind". None of the players wishes to be identified, and one claims he has been warned that if he "causes problems", his selection for the Olympic team next year could be in jeopardy. According to a hockey insider, the trouble has been brewing for some time. "Apart from any discontent with Hamilton's own performance, and the fact that he seems answerable to no one except himself, there is concern among the clubs that they are now deprived of international players for most of the season, whereas this policy is not followed by those European nations who achieve better results than Britain. In some respects these international players are in a similar situation to the England footballers, though not for the same reason. But it is hard to believe they would actually refuse to play with the Olympics coming up." Hamilton responds: "All this is just an enjoyable rumour. There has been some feedback from an evaluation process in which we asked players how we might take the game forward, but the reaction is nothing like what is being suggested." Whatever the outcome, many in hockey believe the once-bankrupted game is in an even worse situation since Sport England interfered with the structure.
Olympics: opening the case for Wembley
Wem-ber-lee is going up, while a dozen miles across the capital the old Hackney dog track is coming down. What's the connection? Well, both will be a vision: Wembley in all its £757m splendour when it reopens in 2006, and Hackney in the mind's eye as a possible venue for an Olympic Stadium in 2012, as part of the east London regeneration scheme deep in Dirty Den territory. So have the master planners got it right? Some politicians don't think so; neither does Jarvis Astaire, who is in the unique position of having had a foot in both camps. Former boxing impresario Astaire is now chairman of the Greyhound Racing Association. and was formerly vice-chairman of the Old Wembley, but he says it is New Wembley which should be an Olympic showpiece if London gets the Games. "At the very least it is ideal for the opening and closing ceremonies, which I am sure would appeal to the IOC. They should also use Wembley Arena next door."
Time for HRH to put his dukes up
The Duke of Edinburgh is the last person you would expect to champion political correctness in sport, so why hasn't he been his usual stroppy self about the ditching of amateur boxing from the approved activities in the award scheme for youngsters which bears his name? Especially odd as Prince Philip is also a patron of the English ABA, and president of the CCPR, of which the ABA are members. Apparently the reason for boxing's KO is that it "does not fit in with the the ethos of the award". Isn't this something not only HRH but the new cudgel-swinging Sport England should be looking into? At the same time they might enquire of the ABA themselves why Lorraine New, who represented women's amateur boxing, has been dropped from their now all-male executive council.
Apparently a touch of tetchiness has crept into a couple of interviews given recently by Barbara Cassani; a pity, because it seems the press are about to do her a big favour.
The British Athletics Writers' Association have persuaded the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, to be a guest at their annual bash in London next Saturday. As Cassani will also be attending it provides a neat opportunity for a tête-à-tête about the progress of the London bid over the canapés. Getting Rogge is a coup for the scribes, who hope communications with Cassani will be enhanced following the arrival in her team of the Uefa spokesman Mike Lee and ex-Reuters sports chief Steve Parry, two seasoned media pros. Together with Jackie Brock-Doyle, who did a fine job at the Commonwealth Games, it is a formidable PR front and must surely lead to the grounding of Brunswick, the expensive spinners Cassani also used at Go!, who have been less than impressive in the robust world of sports politics.
So firmly has Mayor Ken Livingstone got the Olympic bit between his teeth that he is even prepared to talk it up with the Tories.
However, a mission to do just that at last week's Blackpool conference did not quite go to plan. Red Ken fell victim to the vagaries of Virgin, having to abandon his long-delayed train on reaching Wigan, take a £55 taxi ride to Blackpool only to arrive halfway through the session he was supposed to be chairing. Meanwhile, back in his congestion-charged London, journalists and civic bosses travelling to join a tour of potential Olympic sites in east London found part of the Jubilee Line out of action for the day because of a signal failure. Just as well no IOC bigwigs were on board the train and the Tube, then.
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