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Will Piggott get his gong back by royal command?

The decision to strip the boxer Naseem Hamed of his MBE - exclusively revealed here last week - coincides, ironically, with moves to restore the honour removed from another famously banged-up sports figure. It is 20 years since Lester Piggott's OBE was rescinded following his jailing for tax evasion, but a substantial racing lobby, led by the ex-National Hunt jockey turned pundit Brough Scott, is campaigning for its restitution. It is also believed that the Queen, for whom he often rode, is keen for Piggott, 71 (above), and recently in ill health, to be re-gonged.

Ashes debacle 'costly for future of sport'

After the Governmental bandwagoning which followed England's Ashes victory in 2005, things have gone uncomfortably quiet over the current debacle. Instead it is the shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who indicates the potentially depressing aftermath for sport in this country. "Our recent lack of success in major sport worries me enormously, because the biggest spur to mass participation is success at the highest level," he says. "It concerns me that when we are whitewashed in the Ashes, lose heavily at rugby and have a poor football World Cup it will impact on sport's take-up of young people. And if we want to get kids enthused about the London Olympics in 2012 it is vital we put a raft of athletes on the rostrum in 2008. It is worrying that because of the trough athletics is going through, this may not happen. There are many things we can learn from countries like Australia." Robertson, in an interview on page 68, calls for fundamental reforms, and will carry the political torch should there be a change of government before 2012. He vows: "One promise I will make is that I will not do anything because I am a Conservative but because I genuinely care about sport." We'll hold him to that.

Ear we go - now they want to muffle football's big noises

The PC pundits are at it again. Orchestrators behind something called the Shout About Noise Reduction Campaign - where do they dig these things up? - have issued what they term a "stark warning" to football clubs that they are failing to comply with the the latest health and safety regulations regarding crowd noise levels at their grounds. They claim that under these regulations hearing protection must be made available to all employees exposed to excessive noise levels, and "according to research" (sic) the permitted level is exceeded at eight Premiership grounds, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle and Portsmouth. So, they claim, all staff, including players, should be legally required to wear ear muffs. Oh yeah? Which brave soul is going to whisper this directive in Fergie's ear? As an equipment rental company is behind the campaign, perhaps PC in this case means publicity conscious. Anyway, by our reckoning football doesn't need ear muffs. Those running the game have been cocking a deaf 'un over bungs for years.

Surely Anna is worth more than a champion on paper

We lunched last week with a brilliant British sportswoman who, like the gymnast Beth Tweddle, has been ludicrously ignored in the discredited honours system. The lovely Anna Hem-mings, 30 (pictured), three times world marathon canoe champion, is an icon who has battled back from chronic illness, never received a penny in Lottery funding and inspires audiences with her motivational speaking to keep her head above water. She appeared recently on a late-night BBC radio programme about unsung champions to find herself sharing the airwaves with the rock, paper and scissors world champion. She says: "I thought, 'Have I dedicated my life to sport to be categorised with someone who goes ching, chang, chollah?' " Bet he gets an MBE before you do, Anna.

Foreign experts to bring a hint of hope after Coe's message

Last year the London Olympics chief, Lord Coe, was saying how vital it is for Britain to import foreign expertise. Some have got the message, though not so far his own sport, athletics. With 2012 in mind wrestling has hired a top Ukrainian coach, Anatolii Kharytoniuk, while German Jorg Ahmann and Jeff Alizina of the US will be tutoring beach volleyball hopefuls, with amateur boxing continuing to court Cuban ace Mario Kindelan. A Dane, Allan Lund, is advising British handball how to make the grade. Meanwhile UK Athletics will announce their new chief executive on Tuesday - a Brit who, we understand, has no direct association with the sport.

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