Inside Lines: Whitehall in ruck over honour for Woodward

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The Independent Online

It seems that there has been something of a backstage battle going on between Whitehall and Westminster over whether England's World Cup-winning rugby union coach Clive Woodward should be awarded a knighthood in the New Year's Honours to be announced this week. Alf Ramsey was quickly summoned by the Palace for his shoulder tap when England's footballers won their World Cup in 1966 but apparently some curmudgeons among the civil servants who advise the Honours Committee did not think rugby had sufficient popular clout to justify more than simply elevating Woodward from his present OBE to a CBE. However, the word from Downing Street was that while rugby was not the preferred following of most Cabinet members, there would be a public outcry if Woodward did not get his deserved K, for which he is 1-4 with William Hill. The outcome will be awaited with interest, and there will surely be a little something for Martin Johnson, though it may be too soon to upgrade Jonny Wilkinson's new MBE. Tim Henman may get a gong as a consolation prize for never winning Wimbledon but one who is not anticipating a belated call to kneel is Trevor Brooking, still denied the traditional knighthood for outgoing Sport England chairmen because he spoke a few home truths. While his "suspension" may be lifted next year, his successor, the Government-friendly Patrick Carter, is set to leapfrog him amid speculation that his vice-chair, the former Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson, could become sport's first black dame. It took almost half a century for the boxer Terry Spinks to get an honour for his gold medal in the 1956 Olympics. Let us hope Michael Watson's inspirational road to recovery will receive prompter recognition.

Why 2004 shapes up as a women's world

England's rugby chaps may have monopolised the honours in 2003 but this time next year we may well be reflecting that 2004 was a women's world. If the Athens Olympics are a success it will be due largely to the first female to be in charge of the Games, Gianna Angelopoulos, while if Britain is to approach anything like the glory that was Sydney it is likely to be down to a fistful of feminine talent. Runner Paula Radcliffe, cyclist Nicole Cooke, three-day eventer Pippa Funnell, yachtswoman Shirley Robertson and taekwondo's Sarah Stevenson are all potential gold medal winners (how many men can you name?) while the gymnast Beth Tweddle has the star quality to be become the belle of the bars for British TV audiences. According to Cooke, British women have had a rough deal, with lack of acclaim for their sporting exploits, but now their time may come - ironically in the city which banned them from the ancient Olympics.

Question time for Cassani's top team

The top echelon of London's 2012 Olympic bid team spent their Christmas playing a quiz game. It wasn't Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? because they all are already, though this did not prevent chairman Barbara Cassani, and equally well-heeled vice-chairs Seb Coe, Alan Pascoe and Charles Allen and chief executive Keith Mills compiling answers to the paper posers set by the International Olympic Committee. The detailed questionnaire for potential host cities has to be completed by 15 January and the responses will determine if London makes the cut in mid-June. Cassani is confident enough to have expanded the bid's communications unit. The highly capable Fran Edwards, currently Sport England's chief spokesperson, is joining Mike Lee's experienced spinners.

The boxing promoter Frank Warren did not pull any punches when asked recently why no one was investigating what he termed "the under-performance of the t**** at Sport England". Judging from our mail, there are plenty who agree with him.

Not least over the apparent leaning towards what one reader describes as "exclusively white middle-class interests, like tennis, golf, cricket and sailing" to the exclusion of such as basketball and amateur boxing in the priority lists of both Sport England and UK Sport. The head of one sports governing body suggests that the system isn't working: "It's crap and gives no one confidence." Roger Draper, chief executive of Sport England, who likes to talk a good fight, would demur, but we would be more impressed had he not hastily backtracked when pressured by the ECB on a report that a deadline had been set for cricket to reform or lose funding. In Warren's world, isn't that known as "bottling" it?

Such is the publicity value of the glittering prizegiving ceremony that major cities now vie to do sport's bidding. Yet there were days when you couldn't give these events away.

A record number of caps are in the Olympic rings for 2012 , and now we hear the prestigious Laureus Awards will be up for grabs after next year, when they make a timely move from Monte Carlo to Estoril a month before Portugal hosts Euro 2004. The following year will see sport's annual "Oscars" opened up to bids, with Cape Town, Hamburg, Valencia, Miami, Shanghai and Venice already showing interest, while even Sicily are said to be making an offer they can't refuse. So could Ken Livingstone see Olympic kudos in this for London?

Exit Lines

If the FA are picking fights, they couldn't have picked a better one than Man United because the whole country would be with them. Nobody loves them but Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't care... They might like to discuss the quality of the people around them who are well paid to watch over their welfare. Seb Coe suggests a topic for a meeting between Rio Ferdinand and Dwain Chambers... We've got the best Haas in the First Division. A West Brom fan appreciates the rearguard action of defender Bernt.