Inside Lines: Sport responds to the women's touch at last

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The Independent Online

Shortly after becoming the first lady of football as managing director of Birmingham City, Karren Brady was travelling to an away game on the team bus in a low-cut dress when one player made the mistake of remarking: "Hey Karren, I can see your boobs." "Take a good look," she replied coolly, "because you won't be able to see them when I transfer you to Crewe." Brady was then that rarity in sport: a woman who ran the show. Now having a female in charge is becoming almost fashionable, and at last their administrative nous is being taken seriously. We have a woman in overall charge of the sports ministry, and women running the London Olympic bid, the CCPR and UK Sport. "Maybe it's now time for us men to tread the glass ceiling," says British swimming's male chief executive David Sparkes, while the CCPR chairman Howard Wells, with almost 30 women on the staff (and only two men), insists: "They are there on merit." Sport is now also awash with female sports presenters, and PRs who act as spokespersons for such diverse bodies as rugby union, athletics, Sport England, the London bid and the Varsity Boat Race. Even the Boxing Board now has a female steward, and the leading company responsible for attracting commercial sponsorship to sport is run by Karen Earl. Britain's Giselle Davies is communications director for the IOC who are organising a timely conference in Morocco next month to discuss the advancement of women in sport. As the women's libbers used to say, you've come a long way baby. But not far enough, according to the Women's Sports Foundation whose spokesperson Helen Donohoe says: "When we get a woman president of the IOC we will know we have arrived."

Greeks get out the Olympic worry beads

When it comes to sport's female power players, none can match Gianna Angelopoulos, who is masterminding the Athens Olympics. It is said she carries more clout in her handbag than Lady Thatcher ever did, and by all accounts she will be required to wield it as soon as the Games countdown quickens. Yesterday the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, was in knuckle-rapping mode himself, warning Athens that, with just five and a half months to lift-off, "a great amount of work has to be done". This can be decoded as a firm message to the Greeks to extract fingers or face global embarrassment. Angelopoulos admits concern and acknowledges that it will take "a great effort" to complete stadia and transport plans in time. The Greek philosophy has always been that it will be all right on the night, and one suspects it will. For, whatever government is in office after next week's general election, ministers will surely throw money at the problem rather than risk international opprobrium, or feel the full weight of Mrs A's handbag.

Swimming's Dunkirk is now Palace's D-Day

Sticking-plaster job it may be, but the three-way stretching of funding between Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority, Sport England and Bromley Council to save Crystal Palace is a timely reprieve for the old lady. She may not be getting quite the full red-carpet treatment, but the deal has saved the red faces that would have ensued had the athletics grand prix been abandoned this summer. Equally important, by keeping the swimming pool afloat, London's 2012 bid has avoided certain ignominy across the Channel, where Dunkirk was being lined up to stage England's Southern Area Swimming Championships. Imagine the capital the French capital would have made out of that. British swimming's delighted David Sparkes confirms they will now go ahead at the Palace.

While Scott Harrison prepares to make the first defence of his regained WBO featherweight title against a useful-looking new opponent, Colombian Walter Estrada, at Glasgow's Braehead Arena on Saturday, across the Atlantic his namesake Audley is talking up a storm.

The Olympic champion cheekily suggests to us from his training camp in California that his encounter with "the Dutch Sonny Liston", Richel Hersisia, at Wembley on 20 March for the much-derided WBF heavyweight title, could be the fight of the year, as both have unbeaten records. One thing about Big Audley is that he has become adept at shrugging off scepticism, unlike his opponent. Hersisia speaks several languages but there was no pardoning his French when he bellowed down the conference call telephone that those who questioned the worthiness of his record against a host of nonentities could "f*** off". He then proceeded to do so himself. Does he throw his punches as well as his wobblies?

The biggest-ever conference about school sport will be held in Telford this week with more than 1,000 delegates, including head teachers and PE directors.

The big guns will be out in force, among them Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, Sports Minister Richard Caborn, Education Secretary Charles Clarke, London 2012 chief Barbara Cassani and UK Sport chairperson Sue Campbell. Doubtless the fashionable topic of obesity levels will be on the agenda. But please sir, will anyone mention the fact that a government monitoring group set up to try to halt the sale of playing fields has met only twice in four years? Or that the Schools Athletics Championships are about to disappear through lack of funding? Please discuss.

Exit Lines

Let me tell you, the sucker can fight. Muhammad Ali's legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, 82, on actor Russell Crowe who he is coaching to play former world champion Jim Braddock in a new biopic... All I know is that in every race I enter one athlete is 100 per cent drugs free - me. Sprinter Marion Jones... I've been round the world these past two years and no one has ever mentioned Picketts Lock. Sports Minister Richard Caborn believes London's World Athletics Championships blunder has been long forgotten.