Inside Lines: They're all going on a working holiday

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Amid the troublesome matters which have bedevilled sport these past few weeks, which have ranged from pill popping to gender bending, there is one which has gone relatively unnoticed. Yet it could have equally harmful repercussions on the future of the games we play, and the develop-ment of those who play them. Changes to the Working Holidaymakers Scheme now mean anyone of a sporting inclination can come to Britain from a Commonwealth country nominally on holiday for two years and take up employment in professional sport with no questions asked about their quality. Alarm bells have started to ring vigorously in a number of sports, not least rugby and cricket, but it has been left to ice hockey to raise this with the so far unresponsive Government. Jo Collins, of the Ice Hockey Players' Association, says the implications are massive, reaching right down to the grass roots, with clubs hiring and developing "cheap labour" from the Commonwealth rather than nurturing home-grown talent. "This could have a de

Amid the troublesome matters which have bedevilled sport these past few weeks, which have ranged from pill popping to gender bending, there is one which has gone relatively unnoticed. Yet it could have equally harmful repercussions on the future of the games we play, and the develop-ment of those who play them. Changes to the Working Holidaymakers Scheme now mean anyone of a sporting inclination can come to Britain from a Commonwealth country nominally on holiday for two years and take up employment in professional sport with no questions asked about their quality. Alarm bells have started to ring vigorously in a number of sports, not least rugby and cricket, but it has been left to ice hockey to raise this with the so far unresponsive Government. Jo Collins, of the Ice Hockey Players' Association, says the implications are massive, reaching right down to the grass roots, with clubs hiring and developing "cheap labour" from the Commonwealth rather than nurturing home-grown talent. "This could have a devastating effect for it will be very tempting for clubs to get a quick fix by picking up a half-decent player from, say, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or even Fiji, get him a nominal job in a bar and play him in one of their teams at the expense of the young Brit. Ice hockey is particularly vulnerable because of the influx of players from Canada and I know of several clubs where this is is already happening. Football should be worrying too, especially in the lower divisions and non-League. The UK is fast becoming simply a training ground for young players from overseas at the cost of indigenous talent, and in this case it is all one-way traffic." Sounds like another case for Lord Moynihan's cudgel.

IAAF concern with Palace not on track

All this shilly-shallying over the future of Crystal Palace is not enhancing London's hopes of winning the 2012 Olympics. Mindful of the broken promises over the 2005 world championships, the burghers of the IAAF are known to be increasingly concerned that there is still no guarantee the Palace will be available to host this summer's London Grand Prix on 30 July. If it isn't, it surely will be Goodnight Nurse for London's bid. It must also be of particular concern to Alan Pascoe, who is not only the promoter of the Palace meet but vice-chair of London 2012. But he remains sanguine despite Sport England's denial that a two-year rescue package has been agreed. "I believe the Grand Prix will go ahead because Ken Livingstone will make it happen. He knows the score. What worries me more is that the venue makes a massive contribution to our Olympic preparations and if the shutters go up in April it will be disastrous." As Tony Blair is now so full of the joys of sport, perhaps there should be Government intervention.

Free at last! TV exposure for the grass roots

Could things be looking up soon for those sports which rarely get a look-in? Look-in is the operative phrase, for we hear publicity-challenged sports hope to have their own TV channel later this year. A dozen national sports bodies, including badminton, swimming, cycling, table tennis and rowing have signed up to have their events screened by a new digital channel called Freesport, which plans to go on air this summer. It will be Britain's first 24-hour terrestrial sports channel, available on free-to-air coverage as well as to satellite viewers in some two million homes. Freesport's launch director, Simon Bazalgette, says: "Our team is in place and we will target news, views and personalities from grass roots sports and those which do not get regular exposure."

A fascinating piece of matchmaking is due to take place over breakfast in a London eaterie soon when the boxing promoter Frank Warren gives Sport England's chief executive Roger Draper a bit of an ear-bashing.

For his part Draper promises some counter-punching in response to Warren's recent caustic observations about Sport England's competence and their less than generous disposition of Lottery funds to sports like amateur boxing. They are getting together at Draper's invitation, and by co-incidence there happens to be a vacancy on Sport England's council, the composition of which suggests it might benefit from the input of some hard-nosed professionalism. They could do worse than invite Britain's premier promoter inside their tent. Moreover, as a lifelong Labour supporter, Warren would fit into Sport England's cosy relationship with the Westminster Establishment. Even their switchboard now offers the message: "Thank you for calling HM Government."

Why were the CCPR, who represent more than 200 UK sports governing bodies, not invited to the launch of London's Olympics bid?

Considering that the affair was awash with bigwigs from Sport England, UK Sport and the British Olympic Association, it seems curious that there was no place in the Royal Opera House stalls for either the CCPR chairman Howard Wells, or chief executive Margaret Talbot. An oversight, as the CCPR were later told, or a snub? "Space was very tight and we were not able to invite everyone we wanted to," says a London 2012 spokesperson. Yet we spotted a number of sports agents in the throng as well as several politicians whose only sporting interest is the bandwagon jump.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

I would not say there is a possibility of him not fighting again. Manager Riath Hamed is as evasive about the future of brother Naseem as the Prince used to be in the ring... I would like to say that the situation is better than when I started, but sadly I can't. Regrets from Elsa Davies, retiring after 12 years as director of the National Playing Fields Association. There isn't anyone I'd particularly like to sit and eat with. Kenny Dalglish when asked which celebrity he'd invite to dinner.

Comments