Inside Lines: Spurned Sir Rodney keeps his powder dry

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The Independent Online

The Government's surprising decision not to reappoint Sir Rodney Walker as chairman of UK Sport when his term expires in September could rebound on them. Although publicly maintaining a diplomatic silence, the ex-Rugby League chairman and Yorkshire shot-put champion is privately seething at the way it was unexpectedly announced by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, at last week's "sports summit" before he had a chance to inform his staff or council members. It would be no surprise if, as did Trevor Brooking when he left the chair of Sport England nine months ago, he fires a few well-aimed bullets on his exit. It is believed Sir Rodney is unhappy at the way he has been treated over a number of issues, not least the clumsy handling of the announcement of his departure - and he is a man who knows where bodies are buried. Jowell's gaffe did little to improve her troubled relationship with Britain's sports leaders, most of whom seemed unimpressed with her summit speech, despite the promised diversion of £100 million from the New Opportunities Fund to aid grass-roots sport. One called it, somewhat uncharitably, "robbing Peter to pay Paul", while another described her address as "patronising" and "more like a party political broadcast". The disaffected mood was further reflected at the subsequent lively CCPR annual meeting, where both Brooking and chairman Howard Wells continued the attack on diminishing Exchequer funding for sport (which Jowell denies) and overdependence on the Lottery. With Craig Reedie's decision to step down from the chairmanship of the BOA after Athens (fellow IOC member Matthew Pinsent is tipped as his successor) the re-election of Wells at least brings some stability to sporting government.

Are they playing politics with sport?

The anticipated appointment of Sue Campbell to replace Sir Rodney Walker as chair of UK Sport may raise her profile but it will also raise a few eyebrows within sport itself, and a few questions, too. Campbell, a former hockey and netball international who is one of the government's senior sports advisers, also runs the Youth Sports Trust, which has benefited from a controversial £9 million deal with Cadbury's to market their chocolate products in schools. Last week she was also made a council member of Sport England. Ubiquitous was a term once applied to Sir Rodney, as he regularly reminds me, but the capable Campbell appears even more so, and her influence on government ministers is now substantial. But could her role with the YST be compromised by her new appointments, which might involve her in decisions on funding for organisations such as her own? Moreover, as, Campbell is cosily New Labour-friendly, like the new Sport England chairman Patrick Carter, are we now seeing the gradual politicisation of sport?

Paris opens the Olympic shop window

Paris have got the Olympics! But hang on un moment. We're not talking 2012 here, but the 48-nations European Youth Olympics which begin there next weekend. It is an opportunity for the 54 youngsters representing Britain in six sports to show their potential, but it is also be a timely shop window for the Paris bid, for several of their proposed 2012 venues will be used and many IOC members will be present. Sports minister Richard Caborn will lend support and run the rule over London's chief rivals. But with the world athletics championships next month, another Parisian party-piece, of all the bridges London has to cross, the biggest is over the Seine.

Jamaica has produced some fine boxers over the years, with past and present champions like Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and Mike McCullum having their roots on the island in the sun. But now the talent has dried up and the sport is taking such a beating that one British promoter is calling for a ban on Jamaican imports.

Joe Frater, himself Jamaican-born, returned there recently and says he was so shocked by the standard of boxing, and the poor condition of the fighters, that he is asking the British Boxing Board's Common-wealth Council not to license any Jamaican fighters until the situation has been investigated. "I was absolutely dumbstruck," says Frater. "It is an accident waiting to happen. There seems to be no control over the sport or proper training programmes. Someone is going to get hurt." Well, someone did when they fought in Jamaica - but in the pocket. Britain's top woman boxer Jane Couch is still waiting to be paid. "The promoter came into the dressing room and said there was no money to pay me or my opponent," she explained.

Here's a tale which is a welcome boost for sport's grass roots - literally so. A campaign group in Oldham have won their battle with the local council, who were refusing to cut the grass on a local playing field to save a few bob.

But they relented after being contacted by the British Olympic Association, who pointed out that it was depriving kids of a valuable recreation area. Now the mowing machines are whirring again. Will there be a similar result in the battle to stop Camden Council in London from downsizing the popular Parliament Hill swimming pool into just a children's paddling pool? Could be, if one of the pool's regular users has a word in their ear. He happens to be Alastair Campbell.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

Last year in Florida I caught a beautiful catfish. I held it in my hands and it started grunting. I threw it back and knew from that moment I'd never eat fish again. Former sports minister Tony Banks reveals why he is hooked on vegetarianism... It's probably the nearest that a West Ham man has got to a trophy for a long time. Trevor Brooking on receiving his CCPR award from Prince Philip... You can smell the baguettes from the other side of the ocean. French golfer Thomas Levet explains why he feels at home at Sandwich for The Open

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