Inside Lines: Double fault as not-so-jolly Roger dodges the bullets
Sunday 28 June 2009
The normally ebullient Roger Draper, the high-profile boss of the Lawn Tennis Association, has been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile at Wimbledon. No doubt his head is below the parapet to dodge the bullets being fired in his direction as, Andy Murray apart, the event has quickly become a Brit-free zone. Flexing new-found muscles, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe declares himself "tired of excuses" for the perennial parade of early drop-outs and warns of funding cuts if this stone-rich sport of under-achievers does not come up to scratch. Draper's allies argue that he has only been in the job two and a half years and that his efforts need time to produce results. But Draper, probably sport's highest-paid chief executive outside top-flight football, will know he needs to justify the huge investments the LTA receives from Wimbledon, sponsors and the Government by at least getting a few more players into the world's top 150 soon. Some £27 million of funding comes via Sport England, for whom Draper was chief executive before moving to the LTA. Could another reason why he is not the usual jolly Roger these days be that, along with other senior figures who worked with the funding body, including ex-chairmen Derek Mapp, Lord Carter and Trevor Brooking, he will be asked to give evidence at the inquiry into the mystery of the secret account which operated between 1999 and 2007 to benefit minor sports, and from which almost £20m is unaccounted for? While Sport England insist no criminality is suspected, there is bound to be great embarrassment when, hopefully, all is revealed.
Check needed on cash
Similar maladministration is now evident at the London Development Agency where £100m has disappeared through a black hole in the accounts for land development at the Olympic Park. When many Olympics sports are being starved of cash, such carelessness with public money, like the books, just doesn't add up.
Yes they Khan
Ricky Hatton is being coy about whether he is to box again after his mauling by Manny Pacquiao. He may be more forthcoming on Sunday 19 July, the morning after the fight before when Amir Khan challenges for the WBA world title Hatton once held. Should Khan win, expect a declaration that the Hitman wants to fight him, a challenge that will be accepted despite their friendship. Politically it should be a no-no because of the bitter differences between Hatton and Khan's promoter Frank Warren, but in big boxing money talks and the bout would certainly sell out the City of Manchester Stadium.
No yolking matter
We've been invited to toe wrestling, bog snorkelling and lawnmower racing but nothing quite as quirky as today's Rowntree's Randoms World Egg Throwing Championships in Swanton, Lincolnshire. It is a punmeister's paradise as they reckon you have to be one egg short of an omelette to compete in a cracking event which literally leaves egg on the face. A crowd of over 4,000 is expected to, er, egg on contestants who wear plastic capes for protection (thought they'd be shell suits) in a range of eggcentric activities. All a bit of a yolk, no doubt, but we have pleaded another engagement, suspecting we'd be target practice. Though we did remind the organisers they could always poach Nick Griffin. Or better still fry him.
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