Inside Lines: FA and Robertson are set on collision course over reforms


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The Independent Online

It has been a decent week for the Olympics and Sports Minister, with London's glory Games coming in under budget and their success being given credit for helping lift the nation out of the double dip recession.

Yet exasperation is a word not far from the lips of Hugh Robertson as the Football Association's old-buffer blazerati continue to snub the long-overdue governance reforms needed to put their house in order.

The FA Council clearly have no intention of implementing his commonsense proposals, fearing their authority will be undermined. Robertson admits "massive disappointment" at the lack of progress.

Should the stand-off continue it could result in Government legislation, though obviously this is seen as a last resort. There has been open hostility within the FA since Robertson described football as the worst-run of any sport, and resentment that they should be under so much political scrutiny when others are not. But recent issues such as the John Terry affair and stubbornness among octogenarian councillors who refuse to make an exception for the able David Bernstein to see out his three-year term as chairman beyond his 70th birthday suggest Robertson rests his case.

A questioning of sport

Jeremy Hunt took up football refereeing to demonstrate his sporting credentials before the whistle was blown on his tenure as supremo at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. His successor, the extremely pleasant Maria Miller, tells us she is learning how to sail – an indication, perhaps, of stormy waters ahead.

Confusing St James's Park and St George's Park wasn't the most auspicious start in attempting to convince an assembly of sports hacks of her capability as the new Games mistress, but at least she seems rather more comfortable with the subject than her opposite number, Harriet Harman, who also introduced her shadow sports team to the media last week.

Heartening as it is in this year of sporting equality to have two women in overall charge of the political playing fields, accepting invitations from A Question of Sport might be inadvisable.

Clegg wields the axe

Unlike successor Andy Hunt, Simon Clegg never had a reputation as a hatchet man while in charge of the British Olympic Association. But in his new role as Ipswich Town's chief executive he has now notched a hat-trick of managerial sackings, Paul Jewell following Roy Keane and Jim Magilton out of the Portman Road doors last week.

Meantime Hunt, who has begun a BOA cull by axing Sir Clive Woodward, may find his own head on the block when Lord Coe takes over as chairman next month.

A dopey idea, Daley

So Daley Thompson has joined the Kick It Out Campaign – though what he wants booted into touch is cycling from the Olympics because of the Lance Armstrong scandal.

"Armstrong is a cheating bastard and his sport is warped and damaged by drugs," he roars. No argument there. But Thompson's own argument smacks of hypocrisy coming from a sport which bred Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and a host of other druggies, some close to his homeland, such as Dwain Chambers and Linford Christie. Is athletics to be expelled too – along with weightlifting, which has been drugs-riddled for years?

Thompson adds: "The UCI [International Cycling Union] are not fit for purpose. The IOC must demand that this disgraceful governing body put its house in order." Now that we agree with. So should Jacques Rogge, who is dragging his heels even more slowly than Armstrong's main sponsors, Nike, did in disowning him, relieve him of his Olympic bronze medal?

Time for the fun to stop

Junior Witter belies his name, as at 38 he is one of boxing's senior citizens. But the former world champion looked sufficiently rejuvenated in May when winning the British welterweight title to give unbeaten challenger Frankie Gavin a worrying time when they meet at London's York Hall in a BoxNation-televised scrap on Thursday. Personal problems have set back the career of the fighter they call "Funtime Frankie", but now it's time to get serious.