Inside Lines: Hard labour as new sports overlady puts the boot in


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The Independent Online

Labour has a new games mistress. Harriet Harman's latest appointment on the Opposition front bench seems to have crept under the radar. Perhaps with good reason.

Ed Miliband's selection of his daunting deputy as shadow secretary for culture, media and sport will raise eyebrows, and doubtless a few hackles in the sporting community.

"Harperson" has no track record of any previous interest in sporting issues but this did not deter her going into bat at Lord's last week, telling the Business in Sport and Leisure annual conference that while on holiday in India last year "it took me twice as long as any other nationality to get through passport control and baggage checks because all they wanted to talk to me about was the cricket. It was quickly evident that they knew more about English cricket than I did".

And probably any other aspect of sport for that matter.

But that's politics for you, and politics is what she is about, as she has wasted no time in putting the boot into Government sports policies, claiming everything good that is happening these days is all down to the last administration. Another Harman gem: "In Peckham, they walk tall when Rio Ferdinand reminds them that he came from Peckham." Not if they're a Millwall supporter, as her newly-appointed sporting aide could inform her.

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham, is now Labour's shadow sports minister. Not only is he a Millwall fan but a qualified referee. His whistle should come in handy.

Coe in pole position

Lord Coe's smile was wide while that on the face of fellow IAAF vice president Sergey Bubka wassomewhat wry as they embraced after London's acquisition of the 2017 world athletics championships on Monaco.

London's victory over Doha is another personal triumph for Coe, almost certainly sealing his future presidency of the sport's world governing body after next year's Olympics. For his main rival is the former Ukrainian pole vault legend whose own hopes of succeeding Lamine Diack have all but but vanished, so high is Coe's profile in global sport after going for bust in Monte Carlo.

Some believe Coe, who has Fifa experience, should have been recruited to aid England's disastrous football World Cup bid. As he says: "I don't think English football has enough people of influence at the highest level of the game internationally. In track and field and the Olympic world we clearly now do. Football doesn't really punch its weight in those corridors."

Bell tolls for Joe

The third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas early this morning provided the opportunity for the fight game to pay a timely tribute to one of its finest warriors, Smokin' Joe Frazier, with the traditional 10-count bell toll.

Although he did not die penniless, 67-year-old Frazier, who fathered 11 children, had lost most of the fortune he earned. Floyd Mayweather Jnr, boxing's richest and most-watched personality according to pay-per-view figures, is to pay for his funeral.

British fans have a chance to remember Frazier as his trilogy of fights with Muhammad Ali forms an integral part of the photographic exhibition of Ali's own career by top snapper Chris Smith which we featured here last week. It is at the Piero Passet Gallery, 21 Fleet Street, London EC4 on Thursdays and Fridays only from 11am-6pm.

Good, kabaddi and the ugly

Kabaddi is an anything-goes sport prominent in South East Asia and the Middle East – and the national game of Iran – which seems based on mixture of tribal warfare (which it once was) and the Eton Wall Game.

Teams win points taking turns to send "raiders" to take out opponents while holding their breath chanting "kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi".

Now it seems the more appropriate cry would be "Cheat, cheat, cheat". So far 12 players in the current World Cup, in the Punjab, have tested positive for drugs, including two Canadians an Australian and a Briton.

Kabaddi was hoping for Olympic recognition. Breath should not be held.